Abi Morgan’s beautiful and tender story of love, life and marriage is set to make its Australian premiere at Red Stitch later this month. Lovesong is the ultimate homage to all that is a shared life. It’s the story of Margaret and William – their past, present and future – a story that grapples with time (and the loss of it), with all things human and with the ultimate end that is the one true and inescapable thread that binds us all.
Time is as fluid as water in Lovesong and Morgan uses this trope well to tell her tale of human aging and the uncertainties (in all its forms) that that brings. A wonderful work, indeed, for four actors, says director, Denny Lawrence, who loves the language and the time-shuffling structure of the piece as well as the notion of two characters played by four actors.
“I was drawn to its mixture of melancholy and life-affirmation,” he says. “I also liked the design concept – at least as I saw it. And I always heard a live music element. When I asked if, rather than a pre-recorded soundtrack, I could use a cello, Red Stitch artistic director Ella Caldwell was fully supportive of that.”
Lovesong will resonate with all ages and carries with it the heavy burden of loss. Says Lawrence: “I’d prefer not to say too much about ‘personal significance’ but will admit it resonated in its themes (including the theme of loss: I have lost far too many friends and colleagues in the past few years).”
Lawrence concurs and says: “There are so many ideas explored in the play, including love, mortality, independence and interdependence in relationships – and particularly the need to be honest with one another and to be true to yourself even as you find out how to live together. Most of all, it is life-affirming and positive about the possibility of a successful marriage, which is something I think Abi Morgan wants to celebrate. (Interestingly, her own parents divorced, while she herself is apparently in a long-term relationship.) There is nothing in the play, and the way it is expressed, that couldn’t have significance for an audience of any age, and perhaps especially for those who are and have been in any relationship – which is most of the audience of course.”
Welsh born Morgan is a multi award winning playwright whose insightful writing style penetrates to the very core of who we are as individuals and a community. She has the ability to dig deep and remain truthful to her subject matter speaking in terms that we inherently understand in both a cerebral and sensory way.
Says Lawrence when speaking about Morgan’s style of writing and her Lovesong characters: “Abi Morgan clearly loves language and discovering ways in which ideas and emotions can be expressed in a manner that concentrates the way people talk. Without being ‘naturalistic’, she has her characters speak in non-linear ways, in incomplete sentences, in a rather ‘ragged’ fashion – all of which gives the dialogue real authenticity. She is very good at revealing implicit meaning and subtle metaphor in dialogue and in planting things people say early in their time together that return and ‘echo’ and reverberate in later life. She is also not sentimental in her exploration of relationships: she is so accurate about the way people persist in their habits and resist changing – even as they try to alter each other to some degree. Above all, she does this with great humour. For a play about such ‘somber’ subject matter, there are many laughs in it.”
Morgan has written for TV (Sex traffic, The Hour), film (The Iron Lady, Shame, Suffragette) and 13 or so plays. “If people only know her from film and television, they may be surprised at the pure ‘theatricality’ of this play,” explains Lawrence. “For those who know her theatre work, there are certainly areas of commonality, but this is a unique piece. The play was first developed with a Theatre group which employs a very physical style. We have found our own way of presenting this story – one that gives equal or greater weight to the language of the play, including its musicality (hence the live cello). Her language and the subtlety of her characterization are her great strengths and we have enjoyed delving into that.”
Actor, writer, director, producer and NIDA alumni, Lawrence has been a prolific contributor to the entertainment industry for many decades across all mediums from TV’s The Young Doctors to the film A Divided Heart as well as many theatre shows – his last Red Stitch show as director was the highly lauded Love Love Love in 2015. So, as a creative, what sorts of themes and styles interest him the most?
“As you can probably tell, I enjoy the language in a piece of theatre, which is more about language than is film and television (where I have worked most often),” he explains. “I look for real richness of characterization, which is found in the best Drama, for stage or screen. I am drawn to ‘darker’ themes – but I definitely strive to find the possibility for humour, even in (perhaps especially in) ‘serious drama’. I am definitely attracted to the exploration of relationships, and to female characters and the status of women in stories about relationships. Abi Morgan writes terrifically strong and complex female characters.”
In many ways, Lovesong is a journey into the heart and soul of what it means to be human. Morgan’s poetic and potent language soars above the pedestrian creating something tangible and meaningful. Heart wrenching yet heart warming, Lovesong should not be missed
Says Lawrence: “If, like me, you think the best theatre is about the text and the performance, this is the show for you. It is a deeply emotional but completely warm play with four very accomplished performances (from Paul English, Maddy Jevic, Jillian Murray and Dylan Watson). Plus, there is the exquisite performance of cellist Campbell Banks, playing the beautiful, specially-composed music of Gemma Turvey. Melancholy it may be – but Lovesong is also funny and touching and a joyous celebration of living life to the full.”
August 21 – September 23