Thursday, 12 March 2020

REVIEW: Love Love Love at the Lyric Hammersmith

Ten years after Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Love premiered, it has returned to the stage. The play is in three acts in different eras with the same baby boomer couple, Sandra (Rachael Stirling) and Kenneth (Nicholas Burns). Their lack of empathy and understanding of their own middle class, white privilege is as relevant and fascinating now as it was in 2010. 

The first act is set in 1967, when young Kenneth is staying with his older, sterner brother, Henry (Patrick Knowles). Henry has invited his ‘girlfriend’, Sandra – dressed in a vivid purple dress - round for a romantic evening but she hits it off with dressing gown-wearing Kenneth instantly. They connect over Oxford University and their excitement of ‘things changing’ in London and the future ahead of travelling, getting high and being free. Bartlett’s text captures the language used at the time; the dismissal of feminism and homophobic slurs. 

Act 2 skips to 1990 in suburban Reading, where Sandra and Kenneth end up in a drunken argument in front of their teen children; Ros (Isabella Laughland) and Jamie (Mike Noble), eventually leading to a decision to divorce. Their irresponsible parenting and constant interruptions of their daughter has dramatic effects on their wellbeing and mental health.

The final act, at Kenneth’s flat after Henry’s funeral, the family reunite as Rose’s request. The play takes a darker turn as Rose’s parents fail to understand her pleading to buy her a house as she is unhappy with her life. The endless screaming, shouting and uncomfortable silences don’t quite match up to the rest of the show- there are still moments of humour but the blocking seems off and the interactions lose authenticity. 

Rachel O’Riordan’s direction begins with a slow start but the play becomes increasingly more gripping in each act. With popular culture references and Bartlett’s alteration of the language used, they grasped the zeitgeist for each act. Some moments seemed more intense that perhaps intended due to the over-reaction in the acting. Stirling’s Sandra was over the top for the most part, which only worked in some scenes when she was completely unhinged. Joanna Scotcher’s design seized the opportunity to present very change in era; the colour, technology and style of clothing and furniture made the acts immaculate and emphasised the dramatic divide in generational differences. 

Love Love Love opens a dialogue about tensions in family dynamics based on the unapologetic demeanour of previous and future generations- it is an excellent play but needs some tweaks to the interactions between characters to be truly realistic and gripping. 

Review by Hannah Storey 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Stalls L12 | Price of Ticket: £32
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