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The Theatreguide.London Review

a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs  Spring 2017

Playwright debbie tucker green (the absence of capitals in her titles and name are her preference) offers three brief stories that illustrate some frustrating truths about male-female relationships. They're not especially new or original insights, but she finds some fresh ways of presenting them. 

The longest of three essentially independent portraits follows a married couple through several years of ups and downs warm bonding, bitter arguments, delight in their children, boredom and, aftter the death of one, paralysing mourning and regret. 

The recurring trope is his seeing she's upset about something and begging her to tell him so he can apologise and/or fix it, while she says that if he really loved her he would just know what was wrong without her having to spell it out. 

The second couple follow a similar pattern, as she insists he apologise for something without telling him what it is, while he demands respect and gratitude for the things he can clearly demonstrate he has done for her. 

The third couple's story seems ever so slightly more optimistic than the others as his begging her to tell him openly what she dislikes about him leads both to openly express small grievances that do not seem insurmountable now that they've been spoken aloud. 

The third couple are tangentially connected to the first two, but in ways that have the feel of being tacked on to justify putting the three together rather than having real resonances. 

Yes, women can generally read moods and communicate indirectly better than men, who tend to need things spelled out, and that might even be news to some in the audience.

But most are likely to recognise green's demonstrations as reminders of the already known and familiar, and find more in the manner of presentation to interest or frustrate. 

In the rapid crosstalk that makes up most of the dialogue, with the rare line even a single sentence long, green does capture both the rhythms of natural speech and the energy of conversations straining to avoid breaking out into arguments. 

And there are occasional bursts of almost Stoppardian word play 'lies ent got nuthin to do with what I do and don't say what I will and won't say what I won't and don't say want to say and don't' that are passing pleasures in themselves. 

Acting as her own director, green, along with designer Merle Hensel, sets the action on raised runways around three sides of the room, with the audience on low stools in the centre, which guarantees that everyone will be unable to see the actors part of the time and some, I suspect, all of the time.

(Meera Syal spends most of the second act sitting down and, with tall people around me, I am not sure I ever saw her face.) 

The two actors in any given scene may play intimate moments shouting across the abyss to each other, an obvious symbol but not a particularly effective one. 

Given almost twice as much stage time as either of the other pairs, Lashana Lynch and Gershwyn Eustache Jnr create a believable portrait of a marriage no more imperfect than most. 

Gary Beadle and Meera Syal can only sketch in both the conflict and the underlying good will of the second pair, and Beadle (reappearing in the third) and Shvorne Marks end the just-over-an-hour play with a note of warmth and hope.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review -   a profoundly affectionate.... - Royal Court Theatre 2017

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