Circle Back (Good Idea Bad Show) is a romantic comedy that takes place entirely on Zoom and is part of this year’s digital Fringe Festival. Gwyneth (Lauren Maykut) is a graphic designer working out of Melbourne, and Jamie (Tabia Lau, also the writer and director) is a brand manager overseeing tobacco products. As their careers, lives and goals change over the course of several years, Jamie and Gwyneth’s paths keep intersecting as freelancer and employer.
Maykut and Lau have great chemistry that–wonderfully–changes as Gwyneth and Jamie’s relationship evolves over a series of meetings. They begin with the sweetly anti-romantic first meeting. Gwyneth is annoyed at having to work at 7pm, and Jamie’s job involves adjusting the colour of pus on a cigarette box warning label. Jamie is smarmy and overly corporate, cracking jokes about selling cigarettes to kids and eager to be liked despite bursting with apparent confidence. Gwyneth is dry and blunt, quietly disarming in a way that charms the more flirtatious Jamie.
As Jamie is tasked with overseeing Gwyneth’s work as she makes edits over Zoom, they have a lot of empty air to fill. Eventually, that air gets filled with long talks, sharing music, and of course, workplace flirting. Subtly, questions about partners arise and hair starts looking suspiciously nicer. They start drawing out their final Zoom ‘goodbyes.’ At one point, Gwyneth says ‘I miss you even when I’m with you’—a perfect encapsulation of what it feels like to love someone long-distance.
Throughout, the dramatic time difference between their shifting locations is emphasized. There’s something compelling about watching a relationship develop that you know is wholly unlikely to happen in so many ways—it’s highly unlikely these two would meet in the real world. Jamie especially goes through a compelling arc. It’s about the value of work that avoids the typical clichés of corporate dissatisfaction, and instead focuses on how different jobs prompt us to question our priorities (a theme hammered home by multiple endings).
It helps, too, that Lau’s script is really funny. Between the rapid workplace lingo and cracks about trying to make tobacco ads ‘more inviting, less gross,’ the show feels like an affectionate lampooning of the workplace tics we all develop and the personalities we construct within these spaces. It’s authentic and funny without devolving into parody, sweet and real without being cloying or overly cute.
I loved this show. In a post-Black Mirror world, where the internet is so often used as a symbol of humanity’s moral collapse, it’s good to be reminded that the digital world also has a tremendous capacity to bring people together. That human connection can persist through any screen.
- Circle Back is playing on-demand at the Virtual 2021 Toronto Fringe Festival.
- Purchase a $5 Membership to access the On-Demand programming on the Fringe website, then Pay What You Can to each show as you go, with the suggested price of $13 per show.
- Memberships can be purchased here. View the virtual on-demand show listings here.
- Accessibility notes:
- On-Demand shows: videos are closed captioned, transcripts are available for all audio content, documents are screen-reader friendly, and all digital images are provided with alternative text descriptions. These access supplements have been generated by the company and reviewed by the Festival. They may vary slightly from company to company.
- Fringe Primetime presentations will feature Auto-Transcribed Captioning.
- Content Warning: rated PG, some adult language.