Review: Love, Love, Love

22 January 2016

Mike Bartlett’s ‘Love, Love, Love’ follows the story of Sandra (Eleanor Mack) and Kenneth (Ben Walsh), from the 1960s to the 21st Century, the play plots the life of this pair of dysfunctional lovers, from their meeting, to their marriage, to their explosive life as divorcees.

Director Katurah Morrish's adaptation certainly takes the audience on a journey — both through the eras, and effectively and artfully through the entire life span of a forty year relationship. Much of this is due to the fantastic aesthetic of the show.

Admittedly, at the beginning of the show I was concerned that the setting and action would struggle to fill the cavernous ADC stage, which is always tricky to master during the late show slot — but the design and production team did a brilliant job. The skeleton set of a series of staple sofa items which were chopped, changed and rearranged across the three Acts to denote the different eras was a simple, but highly effective way of successfully conveying the huge historical span of the play. Details ranging from the 60s vinyls, to the modern artworks flying in for the final act, showed that a real level of craftsmanship had gone into making this show a reality.

Indeed, one of my favourite aspects of the show was strangely enough the scene transitions which, using Sam Brain's Shane Meadowseque film reels of contemporary news stories from beautifully plotted the timeline of these characters, and provided important political context for each Act. It was perhaps daring for the Director to make these scene transitions as long as they were, ranging several minutes, however the action paid off and was utterly mesmerising. It was therefore fitting that the section of the crew who took part in these transitions also attended curtain call.

For me however, it is not until the first of these video reel transitions, following Act One, that this play really kicks off. The first act lacked a level of dynamism and pace that the latter two acts provide in bucketloads. At times, it feels as if the actors are not fully invested in the first act, as if they were pacing forth, to the arguably perhaps more interesting dialogue and dynamic of the next Act. In my eyes, the show would have benefitted from a film reel at the beginning of the play, or some kind of alternative dynamic pre-state, in order to start the show with a real punch.

That said, other than the somewhat laboured beginning, the show is packed with real spirit and drive. Leads Eleanor Mack and Ben Walsh are brilliant, and should be commended for their ability to so skilfully portray the stark ageing of their characters throughout the play. Perhaps in the first act, the performances are edging slightly higher than the 19 they aimed at; but this is completely rectified by the brilliance of Mack’s and Walsh’s nail-on-the-head performance of old age in the 21st Century section. Walsh brings a stoicism and charm to the role of Kenneth, whilst Mack’s Sandra is sharp, bitter, and at times brutally honest.

Particular note should also be paid to Ben Martineau's performance as Henry who brings a dry humour to Act One, and was one of my highlights of the first half. Yet, something truly fantastic is created on stage in Acts Two and Three when the couple’s children Rose (Amy Malone) and Jamie (Joe Pieri) are thrown into the mix. The pace of the entire production ups and becomes something incredibly exciting as soon as the entire family united on stage. The chemistry between the four is fantastic throughout. Pieri provides some wonderful and much needed comic relief and his delivery on several lines is simultaneously unexpected and hilarious. Malone meanwhile provides a measured, controlled and skilful performance, jumping between teenage sass and serious political concern seamlessly.

Love, Love, Love is an intriguing, visually pleasing, and exciting production — which despite it’s slightly stumbling beginning, triumphs. 

8/10