The TheatreguideLondon Review
Royal Court Theatre Autumn 2012
We're told that some writers make notes of thoughts that randomly come to them on whatever scrap of paper they have handy – a story idea here, a bit of dialogue there, maybe just one or two words – so they won't forget them and might use them later.
You could be excused for thinking that Caryl Churchill's new script is just made up of a bunch of those jottings she found in an old file.
Love And Information is not quite as random as that, but it is a collection of almost sixty very brief snippets – two or three minutes long at most, often just a single line – with no continuity of characters or situations.
They're grouped into seven sections, but the published script allows for the bits to come in any order, and members of the press on opening night were given a crib sheet of the running order actually used.
Most, but not all, of the
bits can be forced under the very loose umbrellas implied by the
title, and there are discernible subsets on the themes of memory,
secrets, textbook information and the like.
But essentially what we see are independent and incomplete blackout scenes, most of them playing more like the ideas for scenes than like finished products.
A few (the former lovers whose memories don't jibe, the word for table in different languages, the virtual girlfriend) have the feel of revue sketches, another few (the doctor and patient, the wife who knows of the affair, the guy who grassed) hint at incomplete stories we'd like to know more about, and a very few (the savant, the memory lesson, the boy who couldn't feel pain) feel complete in themselves.
Churchill's script is made up of unadorned dialogues, with no indications of setting or even speakers' identities, and so director James Macdonald and his cast have had to invent these things, almost certainly through rehearsal improvisations.
Some of their inventions are reasonable guesses if not the only ones – a conversation on free will and fate is given to what appear to be grandson and grandmother, and a scene about roses to two gay men, but each could have been any two other people, with different overtones.
More often, the settings and speakers seem almost perversely irrelevant – conversations in a steam room, on a ladder, during a ballroom dance competition, in a crowded waiting room, in each case with no evident meaning to the juxtaposition.
The scene-lets are all performed on the same white box stage, with props (table, sofa, exercise bikes, airplane seats) rushed on and off during blackouts during which there are covering sounds ranging from various kinds of music through animal noises and mechanical noises, again almost never with any connection to what came before or after.
I have no doubt that the cast of sixteen had an interesting time deducing and improvising identities and contexts for the speakers in each case, and that, I fear, is how best to approach and appreciate this theatrical evening – as a string of actors' exercises displaying their improvising skills.
Those wanting more coherence and more in the way of content are likely to find too much of the evening too frustrating.
Love And Information - Royal Court Theatre 2012
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