Saturday, 4 February 2012

I’m a huge (some might say hopeless) romantic. I believe in soul mates, everlasting love and all that jazz, so a play entitled ‘Lovesong’  (Lyric theatre, Hammersmith) sounded right up my street. And it was.

Simultaneously telling the story of Maggie and Billy in their twenties and also in present day, Lovesong couples the mundane aspects of a marriage with the significant and uses music and multi-media to beautiful effect to tell this story of love, time and mortality.
The set was minimal; just a table, bed and wardrobe but with the video projection onto pillars and the leaves covering the whole stage, the entire house and garden were easily visualised. The characterisation of Maggie (Sian Phillips) and Billy (Sam Cox) as an elderly couple was spot on, the nagging and routine of familiarity. Young Billy (Edward Bennet) was charming and sarcastic in equal measure and while young Maggie (Leanne Rowe) was a little predictable and stiff, she looked amazing in her 1960’s costumes and her woodenness didn’t apply to her dance. A collaboration between writer Abi Morgan (Shame, The Hour)and physical theatre company Frantic Assembly, dance and movement sequences were used to convey emotion staggeringly well. I found some of the individual routines a little redundant and even a bit uncomfortable to watch in the case of the older Maggie, as she seemed so fragile, but this was obviously the intention. However, they were powerfully moving when performed together; when Billy moved with the young incarnation of Maggie you could see his yearning for a time when she was strong young and healthy. When the young couple cavorted on the kitchen table, the routine was so effective and steamy I’m sure I blushed.
But it was the incredible bed scene that really stood out and jumped easily into my top 3 physical theatre moments ever. All four actors performed an epic movement sequence which saw them all enter and exit at various time through a ‘crack’ in the bed, sliding in and out of the performance space. It was frantic yet fluid and poignantly symbolic of the overlapping of time; our past, present and future. As the four actors moved across the bed, slipping in and out of the hidden entrance, they were so interlocked, as indeed the lives of a married couple are.
Love is the theme of this play. Love in its every day form, picking what to wear or to eat, discussing friends and neighbours and the marital home. Love when it is flirty and fresh, full of kisses and touches. Love when it reaches the complicated times of financial hardship, infidelity, infertility. Love as it deals with illness and prepares to be parted. The scene of Billy counting all the things he would no longer be able to do for himself when Maggie dies, begins with him sounding incredibly put out but becomes heartbreaking as his anger rises, as we realise that it just may ring true. The delicate question of what happens to a love when one person is no longer in this mortal life was handled so realistically and the older actors were heart-warming. By the final scene, when they recounted how they met whilst finishing each other’s sentences and then lay listening to one iPod after Maggie had taken the pills she had been storing up for this very night, the sniffling in the audience was almost louder than the actors. Almost everyone was in tears, not least my friend who had cried on and off since about 10 minutes in, and the actors came out for 5 encores.  Beautifully produced, beautifully acted and with a stunning soundtrack that along with video added to an almost film like quality, Lovesong was truly a triumph for love.

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