LOVE, LOVE, LOVE
by Mike Bartlett.
Paines Plough Tour to 11 June 2011.
Runs 2hr 25min Two intervals.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 19 March at Watford Palace Theatre.
Snapshots from self-obsessed lives designed to make a point.
As The Beatles’ easy message about love wafts from speakers, Kenneth lies contentedly along the back of a sofa, barely energised to reach for a drink. It’s not his house – life’s too easy to own property – but he soon picks up fellow Oxford student Sandra when working brother Henry, whose home it is, invites her round.
Move to the end of the eighties, and Henry’s disappeared form view – a pity, as his story might have made an alternative to Mike Bartlett’s direct line with Ken and Sandra. Self-obsessed as ever, only now as property owners in Reading, they ignore their son Jamie’s addictive glumness and push daughter Rose’s musical abilities, without managing to attend her concert together.
Finally, today, Rose stands alone and resentful, her musical career a non-starter, unable to afford the London home she insists her parents, affluent even on a pension, buy her. Jamie has retreated into his own world, though neither parent seems to recognise this.
So, Bartlett takes a long view of a family dysfunctional across a generation. His three act structure, emphasised by the need for set-changing intervals, suggests something more complex than this play, which is a trio of simple snapshots from Sandra and Kenneth’s self-absorbed life. There’s little to learn about them or their relatives who are – relatively – ciphers to the central account.
Neither Ken, Sandra nor the audience learn much about their natures – though there’s more learning our side of the curtain, as they reach maturity without discovering the skill of listening to, let alone considering anyone else.
James Grieve’s production for Paines Plough (who premiered the play at Plymouth Drum last year) soon raises a suitably irritating feel as characters interrupt, overlap, pay no heed, or indulge themselves at length. If anything charts the changing face of self-interest it’s Kenneth’s move from sluggishness to the firm staccato “No” with which he denies his daughter’s request for financial help.
This is probably the first piece from a contemporary writer and company to reinforce Coalition Government comments about over-privileged baby boomers. If only it did so with more substantial life-stories to tell.
Kenneth: Ben Addis.
Henry: Simon Darwin.
Sandra: Lisa Jackson.
Rose: Rosie Wyatt.
Jamie: James Barrett.
Director: James Grieve.
Designer: Lucy Osborne.
Lighting: Hartley T A Kemp.
Sound: Tom Gibbons.
Dialect coach: Michaela Kennen.
Assistant director: Jack Lowe.