Cast:  Nicki French, Grace Bishop, Phil Hearne, Jo Mousley, Jess Schofield, Craig Chalmers, Alan Stocks.

The world of dating has never had so many options, mates dates, internet dating, blind dates, work dates, and now thrown heartily into the mix comes Pauline Fleming’s well observed look at the rights of passage involved in the world of speed dating.

Dirty Dating.com takes four women who for one reason or another are looking for. Mr Right, or in one case Mr Right now, and through the mists of their conversation on how men and women differ in their approach and what they look for. It seems in the end that the companionship or the chance to find that one true person who won’t treat you like dirt and abuse you is something that both sexes really want if they are being honest with themselves.

Whether a barmaid who is happy with her lot in life, a divorced mum of two, a hard-nosed realist or a young woman who is confused with how her years has turned out, there can be no doubting the eloquence in the way that these women were portrayed by the female members of the cast, the distinctly charming way that each woman dealt with the odd, the curious, the very curious and ultimately for two of the friends the pathetic user was touching, brutally funny and an insight into a world that few brave men dare enter .

Jess Schofield, who was excellent in Dead Heavy Fantastic at the Everyman Theatre, was on top form as the young confused woman whose real love would deter her from ever thinking seriously of going off with a complete stranger. Her looks of complete astonishment at the other members as they admitted to their indiscretions were genuine class.  This must also be said of Alan Stocks as the real good guy of the piece and always willing to go the extra mile to raise a smile whilst on stage, there will be few sights surely this year as eye watering and brilliantly comical as seeing this excellent Liverpool actor trying to shake up his life that has fallen into a rut. For those that caught his performance as the inn keeper in The Flint Street Nativity, it will go down just as memorable as that darkly comic creation.

With any cast making the inaugural performance in a theatre that has just been re-opened after such a long time hidden away in the annals of Liverpool’s former theatre spots, the agony of making sure that it gets an exceptional start will always be at the back of the actors’ minds. With Pauline Fleming’s excellent writing and a cast that can excel in any theatre in Liverpool, there were no such worries, no nerves at all and in the end, Dirty Dating.com was exactly the right play to open the Epstein Theatre with before Brain Epstein’s birthday celebrations start.

Ian D. Hall