In 1967, (in their infectious and hopeful way) The Beatles told us that all we needed was love. While the cynics amongst us may question such a profound statement- last Sunday night at Red Stitch, it was nice for just a moment to pretend that it was true. Of course those of us who have been through heartbreak (and indeed as the characters were to find out in the play) love is definitely not always enough when it comes to making a relationship work. This was one of the central ideas that this fun-loving and surprisingly socio-politically astute play brought to the floor.
The music from the 60s and 70s, coupled with the British humour similar to shows such as My Family, meant that Love, Love, Love was the perfect play to have taken your Dad to. In fact, as I looked around the audience, I would have to say it was definitely an older crowd. This is not to say that the show wouldn’t have appealed to the younger generations- there was plenty of sex drugs and rock n’ roll, so it was a shame not to have seen more Gen Y brethren in the audience.
Written by young British playwright, Michael (Mike) Bartlett, Love, Love, Love manages to capture both the enthusiasm and idealism of youth and the nuances of the modern age (the play impressively covers scenes set in the 60s, 70s and early to mid-2000s). On this, the lighting (Claire Springett); set (Jacob Battista) and costume design (Sophie Woodward) lifted this play up a few notches and meant that it was not only thought provoking and superbly acted, but it also looked both era appropriate and as if we had been invited to be voyeurs for a few memorable evenings with this family. I think it is always critical when doing anything era specific to not only get the clothes and setting right but also the culture and attitudes through performance. There wasn’t a moment when I was taken out of the play and into my own world. Pacing was great, comedic timing was better and I loved the varied and vulnerable characterisations these actors created, particularly one of the smaller roles of the daughter played by Jem Nicholas.
The show was excellently cast with Red Stitch regulars, Paul Ashcroft and Ella Caldwell playing the leads with a robust ensemble playing the supporting roles; Jordan Fraser-Trumble; Rory Kelly and Jem Nicholas. All cast members mastered British accents of varying classes and altered their respective voices as their characters aged and the 60s rolled into the 70s and so forth. This was a very impressive directorial decision (Danny Lawrence) and I couldn’t pinpoint any inconsistencies accent-wise with the cast- something that can stick out like a sore thumb and get me offside very early in the peace. The snappy dialogue that opens the play between Kenneth and Henry, played by Ashcroft and Jordan Fraser-Trumble was particularly enjoyable and considering the content (one brother wanting the other brother to leave before his date arrived) it was altogether relatable as well. Ashcroft is always solid so there were no surprises there but it would have been nice to see more of Jordan Fraser-Trumble who was excellent as the older, more ‘mature’ brother.
As for a review, I couldn’t really fault this production. If only the characters were a little more likeable but it’s always fun to watch flawed characters scramble around in a self-serving fashion, inadvertently hurting those that are closest to them. I’ve racked my brain and can’t think of a solid criticism except for the interval- I’m never a fan. It just breaks momentum for me. Furthermore, the irresistible lure of another wine always gets me distracted- comparing and contrasting the first half with the second. One always feels meatier and although that wasn’t particularly the case here, it did mean that the introduction of more socio-political/cultural observations in the second half came out of the blue in a ‘this is what this play is really all about’ kind of way.
The second half of the play really did get me thinking though and actually reminded me of the Fight Club film commentary. Edward Norton talks about how the film explores the idea that his generation are angry with their parents because they had sold them their culture. A culture of Bob Dylan and Volkswagens, re-marketed, re-packaged and for sale. It was through the rejection of this culture that the catharsis of the protagonist begins. Love, Love, Love also raised this idea in the second half as the clash of generations became apparent and feeling cheated by the disappearing act of youth. Disappointing, selfish, young parents that thought they could change the world and then didn’t. Absolutely stimulating material for the car ride home with your father who I must say, all of a sudden got a little defensive.
While I couldn’t fault this play in any real way, I can’t give it five stars because that secret element that thrills and separates a four star play from a five star one wasn’t there. With this said, I’ve had a bad run of plays for months now and it feels like forever since I have seen anything good. I was so relieved to finally see something of a really high standard. Luckily, this one is on until the 4th of July so you’ve still got time for a wonderful night at the theatre. Take your parents.