Lovesong

Tue 10th – Sat 14th June 2014

reviews

Hannah Greenstreet

at 14:00 on 11th Jun 2014

0agrees

2disagrees

'Lovesong' by Abi Morgan is about ageing, mutability and loss. The audience gradually gathers snatches of Maggie and Billy’s life together as they prepare for Maggie’s death. Unfortunately, Sarah Stacey’s production falls short of the play's lyrical heft.

'Lovesong' is a challenging play for a student production, as its premise is the interaction between the past and present through the interaction of Maggie and Billy with their younger selves, Margaret and William. Perhaps because of the performers' age, the sense of a maturing relationship is not adequately captured and moments of intimacy sometimes fall flat. While Sasha Brooks is compelling as the old Maggie and a recognisable maturation of the vivacious Margaret played by Bridie Murphy, there is a disjunction between Jamie Armitage’s irascible William and Harry Gower’s deliberate, doddering Billy. More than grey hairspray is needed to make the transition convincing. Nonetheless Brooks and Gower both deliver strong monologues, and Murphy and Armitage capture the sense of young love gradually turning sour.

'Lovesong', originally created with choreography by the physical theatre company Frantic Assembly, depends so much for its effect upon movement and music. Rose Reade’s choreography is evocative, leading Maggie and Billy in a dance with their younger selves. The movement serves as a fluid space in which the past and present can interact, as when (the young) Margaret puts into (the old) Billy’s hands the skull that she bought him for his 28th birthday, of which (the old) Maggie has no recollection. It is the site of the memory of the firstlings of their love and the site where they forge the settlement for the survival of marriage and old age. However, at times there is a sense that the performers have yet to fully commit to the choreography and consider how their characters would move; the distinction between how the young and old characters would dance (and how the old characters would dance when memory made them young again) is not sufficiently considered. Harry Gower, in particular, destroys the impression of old age by striding offstage. Rather than considering the play as a dynamic, supple whole, there is a sense that the performers and director consider the physical theatre segments as separate from the text.

There are hints of what the production might be in moments of nuance, which bring out the delightful details of Morgan’s writing, such as former dentist Billy’s fantastic opening line, ‘When I clean my teeth, I always clean them twice’. The wire peach tree at the corner of the stage is one such detail and offers visual interest to an otherwise plain set (blank walls with only a double bed as a centrepiece). Maggie and Billy’s shared dialogue at the end of the play, as they recount the story of the beginning of their relationship, and play out ‘the story of the end’, is another and is pitched perfectly. The ending manages to achieve a delicate balance of hope and sadness. Unfortunately, such nuance is sometimes lacking in the rest of the production, compromising its elegiac note.

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