Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Paines Plough, ‘Love, Love, Love’: Happily Ever After?

Town Hall Theatre, Galway Arts Festival
Jul 12-16

My review of Love, Love, Love coming up just as soon as my generation learns how to improvise wildly ...

There is a lot of talk of ‘living in the moment’ in Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love executed here by English theatre troupe Paines Plough. The first act lands us in June 25 1967 – the night the Beatles sang All You Need Is Love in the first live global TV event. In a London flat, Oxford students/layabouts Kenneth and Sandra sit together and watch. They met only a few minutes before but already they have colluded in drugs, booze, and betrayal. Both feel the world about to change, shifting its priorities from the prejudice of the past and the practicalities of the future to the pleasures of the present. On this night ‘living in the moment’ becomes their lifestyle. Luxury has become their trade, the world their inheritance, and ‘love’ accounted for possibly somewhere in between.

Their duet then takes us twenty years later, where the couple have since married, bought a house and had children. The couple tactlessly choose this night – the eve of daughter Rosie’s sixteenth birthday – to reveal that they’ve casually finished off their fidelity as if it were another bottle of wine. Love, Love, Love then takes a third jump, this time to the present day. Adult Rosie reunites her family and, like her parents forty years before, declares a generational entitlement of her own.

Bartlett’s comedy is unbelievably crass, manoeuvring with Mametian vigilance, often cutting cruelly through bystanders onstage. Lines are crafted with clever invention and delivered with expert timing. Lisa Jackson is noteworthy here as the outrageous Sandra, smitten with inelegant ethics, her swift statements lethal as knives. Kenneth and Sandra’s vows of self-content are lethal, devastating those in their paths. But sympathy is ultimately a choice rather than a push. As the play ages it paves the generational differences, allowing the audience to appoint sympathy based on the difficulties and responsibilities of the generations portrayed. Love, Love, Love is a rampant exercise in theatre’s sheer subjectivity.

Personally, I would be inclined to align allegiance with Rosie and her brother. However, there is something fascinating about that moment of history in the first act that seemed to inform Kenneth and Sandra’s lives. They seem to be the lone practitioners of this philosophy (even though son Jamie jumps on the rollercoaster he is unhappy and, unlike his parents, he doesn’t do anything to change that).  In a way, this furnished landscape seems like a Babylon of sorts, chronicling the story of how these ideological kindreds lost and found each other throughout the decades. Dare I say, is Love, Love, Love a love story?    

What did everybody else think?

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