Love, Love, Love
Lyric Hammersmith Theatre Spring 2020
This is not a good
play. It is not only poor in itself but the cause of poorness in
others, generating disappointing performances from a director and
actors we know capable of much better.
Playwright Mike Bartlett shows
us a couple in roughly 20 year intervals beginning in the Swinging
Sixties, when temporary Oxford drop-out Kenneth proves to have more
in common with his square brother's free-loving, pot-smoking date
Sandra and steals her.
In 1990 the 40-ish couple are middle class
suburbanites on their way to alcoholic middle age, completely
self-absorbed and blind to their teenage children's problems.
2011, happily divorced and facing comfortable retirement, but just as
self-absorbed and alcohol dependent, they can't rouse themselves to
more than mild annoyance when their adult daughter suddenly blames
them for all the unhappiness and disappointment in her life and for
all the world's ills from Thatcher through Blair and beyond.
It is not at all clear what the play's point of view is – the
central couple are despicable but in such a trivial way that we can't
work up much outrage, and they are inexplicably rewarded with a sort
of happy ending – or, indeed, what tone is intended.
The first act
plays like sub-Neil Simon, with paper-thin characters exchanging
one-liners, while the second reaches unsuccessfully for
Ayckbourn-like exposure of pathos beneath the comedy, and I suppose
there is a hint of Chekhov in the daughter's descent from unhappiness
to near-mad bitterness.
Meanwhile the characters move from one
caricature to another without passing through anything resembling
real human beings (The square brother disappears after the first
scene, the play having no interest in someone so ordinary and
functional) or, for that matter, themselves.
There may be a hint in
the popsy's almost manic free spirit of the brittle woman she will
become, but there is no indication that the happy university drop-out
of the first scene will become the non-entity of the later ones, or
that the mildly bratty teenage son of the second scene will be
revealed to have severe mental deficiency in the third.
Faced with a
character written as a string of clichés and stereotypes, Rachael
Stirling has not be guided by director Rachel O'Riordan to find
anything human in any of them. Nicholas Burns is successful at
playing a man so devoid of personality as to hardly be there at all,
but at the cost of constantly risking disappearing from the stage.
being struck by deja vu during the play, but it wasn't until checking
my files later that I realised it was done at the Royal Court in
old review tells me that the 2012 production, unmemorable as it may
have proven, convinced me at the time that there were serious
questions being raised about the responsibilities of the Baby Boomer
There are no such hints at meaning here. When a play is at least intermittently a comedy and the single biggest laugh comes from 'We can't be happy. We live in Reading!', and when it is at least intermittently serious and the only character to express any criticism of the selfish and trivial central couple is made to come across as even shallower and emptier, something is not working.
Receive alerts every time we post a new review
Review - Love Love Love - Lyric Hammersmith Theatre 2020