Love Gone WrongADC

Love, Love, Love is play that seems to about anything but love. It explores the relationship of Sandra (Eleanor Mack) and Kenneth (Ben Walsh) at three different stages in their lives: from hedonistic students in the 60s, to wealthy but bitter divorcees. The script is delightfully explicit in its comment on the nature of responsibility both in the characters personal lives and between different generations. Overall this production seemed to have potential that was unfortunately never completely reached, despite the very able cast and cracking script.

One of the biggest shames of the production is that the first scene was the weakest of the three, with the play getting distinctly better and better as it went along. The play opened with a slightly stilted conversation between two brothers in which I could not work out if they liked each other or detested each other, or neither. Whilst the individuals acted well enough, in other productions of Love, Love, Love I have seen, a wonderful contrast is created between these two characters, which was not found here. I also thought it was slightly strange that whilst music played a big part in the play, the play opened in silence. 

Most of the issues I had with this play seem to boil down to it being under-rehearsed - I know that there were some technical issues, and that this was basically their dress rehearsal. As this play is such an unusual format, artificially sticking together three moments twenty years apart in these characters' lives, every line is laden with characterisation and exposition. For the play to completely work, every interaction must be meticulously thought through. In some cases this did happen, with the couple’s conversation about affairs having wonderful light and shade, but often lines were dismissed and relationships not explored such as between brother and sister Jamie (Joe Pieri) and Rose (Amy Malone) this suggests to me that, if given more time, the director would have worked on these moments. 

Added to this, the movement of each scene was lazy and uncreative. The characters seemed to move between sitting and meandering around the stage, sometimes for no apparent reason. Even in moments in which it would be logical for the characters to get up and move with purpose, such as during arguments, they just continued to sit at a table. I feel this meant certain lines, whilst delivered with conviction and emotion, fell flat.

In the first scene, the chemistry between the two leads was there, but nowhere near the raw, passion form that would make the audience understand why they would still be together thirty years on. I think this is mainly because, whilst Eleanor got the older versions of her character spot on, she wasn’t as comfortable playing young Sandra. She maintained a haughtiness and pessimism, which was perfect for when the character was older, but felt incongruous for a feral, free loving 19-year-old. Her stories of “waking up in a ditch” seem quite unbelievable. I feel that if we had seen more charm in these early years, it would have given her character overall more dimension. However, Eleanor was much more successful as forty and sixty-year-old Sandra, creating a fantastically dislikeable character.

Ben Walsh did a brilliant job at playing Kenneth with subtlety, and he managed to age his character believably whilst maintaining the well meaning but clueless attitude we saw in his younger self. This created a nice contrast to his self-absorbed wife, to the point where you almost forget his equal neglect of their children. With this in mind, it might have been nice to see a little more bite in his character, maybe in the way he treats his brother in the opening scene, so we are reminded of his potential for cruelty which we see at the end of the play.

Amy Malone was definitely a stand-out actor in this production. The energy of the play lifted as soon as she stepped onto the stage, despite playing a character that was depressed. In such a short play body language is so important for immediately characterising a role, and this is something she had spot on. In her first scene she had the age of the character spot on, but there wasn’t something quite right about how she aged the character. Her portrayal of a 37-year-old was not quite as successful, and when she announced her age, it came as a bit of a shock. I feel this is a very difficult thing to pull off as some of Rose’s lines in the different ages were quite similar but I would have loved to have seen a real difference in her after having to deal with 20 years of double standards and bad parenting.

Love, Love, Love is a play so interesting it can’t get away from being pretty good. Despite feeling unpolished, this play still managed to make me gasp and laugh at many points. The fact that there are moments of wonderful acting suggests Love, Love, Love will get better and better as the run progresses and the actors get more of a feel for their characters and the humour and drama of the play. I would say it is one worth seeing, but maybe on the last night.

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