Wednesday, 10 March 2021

REVIEW: Love In The Lockdown, starring Rachael Stirling and Alec Newman (Online)

Lockdown may have closed our theatres, but some creative people have embraced the opportunity and are starting to create genuinely exciting and interesting new dramas that embrace the time and provide entertainment in our homes. Clare Norburn has certainly done that with these nine episodes of “real-time” drama which seems to embrace the technology of Zoom, her passion for mediaeval style music from her quartet The Telling and a double act at least as appealing as Tennant and Sheen in their TV series Staged.

The Telling is a four-piece ensemble consisting of Ariane Prossner and Joy Smith on medieval harps, Jorge Jimenez on Vielle, and vocals from the writer Clare Norburn. It recreates the delightful sound of the medieval age and in the same way that we embraced Steeleye Span’s Gaudete or Clannad’s Irish folk music it is an uplifting joyous sound that opens and closes each episode. But The Telling go further combining the music with costumed storytelling. 

Another inspiration for the piece is the 14th-century work of Giovanni Boccaccio called The Decameron in which 10 young storytellers (7 women & 3 men) are in a Villa to avoid the Black Death raging through Italy and entertain themselves over ten nights by each telling 10 stories, a total of 100 short stories. The parallel with our own existence over the last year, seeking entertainment in our own homes while being scared of being exposed to a deadly disease is easy to see.

The resulting story imagines that Emilia (a character name from the Decameron) alone at home and seeking a bank overdraft as her planned concerts are cancelled by Covid connects with Giovanni, a writer, over zoom for a date. These forty something’s had met previously at a dinner party and obviously attracted to each other but also appear to have a shared interest in studying The Decameron. Episode 1 is their first online date on 4th March 2020 which is interrupted by the need to take a Bank call, so they agree to meet later for dinner (if you recall the Lockdown had not started then!). Episode 2 is the next day when Giovanni is waiting for a follow-up call before the awkward conversation reveals that they had had a successful dinner and he had stayed for breakfast. We learn his father died when he was five and his memories of him are like “a shadow seen through a thickly frosted pane of glass”. The call is interrupted by a friend of his mothers telling him that his mother has been taken ill. 

Rachael Stirling (perhaps best known for being Diana Rigg’s daughter and her role in “Tipping the velvet”) is a very believable Emilia as she conveys the nervous excitement of the first flushes of love and reassuring him with a sparkle in her eyes that he is “doing just fine”. Alec Newman (another accomplished actor who did two series of Waterloo Road) is Giovanni. We see him both in his conversations with Emilia but also in asides to the camera when he shares his inner thoughts. This simple device adds to the intrigue of the drama. 

Nicholas Renton directs this production in lockdown over zoom with the actors recording themselves on their phones and devises, but it looks and sounds real as if we are eavesdropping on the blossoming romantic relationship. Where will this lockdown love story go over the coming weeks as new episodes are released to reflect other moments of significance in the last twelve months? I am hooked to find out but will have to wait until 23rd March for episode 3, the anniversary of Lockdown 1.0, so that leaves plenty of time for you to catch up on the first two episodes on YouTube (30 minutes well spent!)

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★★★

Seat: Online | Price of Ticket: Free, donation suggested
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