Love, Love, Love
By Mike Bartlett
The Lyric Theatre, King Street, Hammersmith, London W6 0QL to 4 April 2020.
Mon – Sat &.30pm. Mat Wed 1.30pm & Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 2hr 30 mins Two intervals.
TICKETS: 020 8741 6850
Review: William Russell 11 March.
Mike Bartlett’s play, which won an Olivier best new play award in 2011, has kept its teeth in this well revival well directed by Rachel O’Riordan, although the problem about casting a play that covers forty years remains. It is about young Oxford layabouts in the summer of 1967 all set to party and plan a wonderful summer of excess who meet because boring working class Henry has met the girl, Sandra and invited her to his flat for dinner which she says she will cook. Younger brother Oxford student Kenneth, who is crashing there for the summer, refuses to leave and Sandra duly takes a shine to the wrong man.
By 1990 Sandra and Kenneth are married, living in Reading, and brother Henry has died. They are coming back from his funeral, are screwing up the lives of their son and daughter, and well on the way up the wealth ladder, the dreams of that summer of love long gone as they enjoy the fruits of prosperity. They are also about to get divorced. By 2011 Kenneth is retired, the children are now totally messed up grownups. Sandra arrives just as self absorbed as ever. As daughter, refused help to buy a house from a father who could do it at the drop of a hat, says – the pair of them had not done what they stood for, but had simply bought into the way society was going and where lucky in being able to do whatever the fuck they wanted. Everyone in her generation has less than their parent had. As indictment of a generation it works pretty well although not sure that Bartlett, who was born in 1988, has quite got his sixties generation right. Certainly it was the swinging generation but it is arguably the one that followed he should have started with. However the gap between those who thrived and those who have not is pinned down precisely – it is the difference between the world of student loans and no student loan debt, one in which jobs were there for the taking and one where they are not.
Act One suffers from the fact that neither Kenneth (Nicholas Burns) nor Sandra Rachael Stirling) look remotely like they were nineteen year olds and in Act Two, when they are middle aged, their children also look rather older than they should be, although this is no reflection on the skills of the cast. Burns and Stirling bicker superbly as the selfish parents and Mike Noble and Isabella Laughland, especially in Act Three when just what Mum and Dad have done to them, but not for them, becomes quite clear are to the life
Framed in a sixties television screen designer Joanna Scotcher has created three superb rooms of the day as the couple social climb and the jokes work perfectly, with Stirling delivering her bitch one liners splendidly coming into her own as she starts to play her age. A King’s Road mini-skirted hedonist is not really her forte although she manages to be sufficiently exotic to encircle the two men, who are not as bright as they could be. Working class brother, well done by Patrick Knowles is splendidly old for his years – summers of love are not for the likes of him, while Burns, a slightly dubious sixties pot smoking entertaining layabout like Stirling comes into his own with age as he also reveals just what a completely selfish horror he has become.
Kenneth: Nicholas Burns.
Henry: Patrick Knowles.
Rose: Isabella Laughland.
Jamie: Mike Noble.
Sandra: Rachael Stirling.
Director: Rachel O’Riordan.
Design: Joanna Scotcher.
Lighting Design: Paul Keogan.
Sound Design & Composition: Simon Slater.
Voice Coach: Sam Stevenson.
Fight Director: Bret Yount.
Production Photography: Helen Maybanks.