LOVE, QUESTION MARK
by Robert Gillespie.
New Diorama Theatre 15-16 Triton Street NW1 3BF To 1 May 2010.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm.
Runs 1h 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 0844 2090 344.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 April.
Not a way to the heart of the matter.
No question mark’s needed. What’s shown and described in Robert Gillespie’s two-hander is hardly love. Except that English, despite its famously rich vocabulary, has given harbour to several shades of feeling in the word. C S Lewis pointed-out half-a-century ago in his book The Four Loves several distinct classical terms that have been absorbed into the one word.
For Michael love is the satisfaction of needs as middle-age approaches, while for Maria, the South American he acquires via the internet, it’s meant sexual exploitation since childhood. Unsurprisingly, she brings a wild experience that surprises staid Michael into numerous rituals, many straight from the pages of De Sade.
Yet he holds the financial key, not letting her out of the house. While love, for Maria, is for the child she left with an earlier partner. It’s not Michael’s idea of their future.
All this is presented as a cabaret of devices and desires. And a cabaret it may well be, for the history of this relationship also seems to be a travelling show. There’s acknowledgment of the audience, reference to a stalker and to how it’s gone on other nights.
Which amounts to too much cleverness, and not enough feeling. If the characters are actors, or characters who’ve chosen to display their own history to paying audiences, it’s impossible to feel much by way of sympathy; their games and quarrels are less a human predicament than a form of showing-off.
Nor do the literary references help; when Maria suddenly starts enacting a scene from She Stoops to Conquer with Michael in suitable regional accent, just who are we meant to regard the character as being? The impression’s of a writer trying out a collage of sex-related ideas for short-term effect. And, like so much watching, or hearing about, sex among others it soon becomes tedious, then predictable – and so even more tedious.
The performers work tirelessly throughout, but less manner and more thought about the matter might have made for a more rewarding evening. Love has enough traumas and necessities of its own without being reduced to this garish parade.
Michael: Stuart Sessions.
A Surprise Package: Clare Cameron.
Director: Robert Gillespie.
Designers: Mamoru Iriguchi, Maria Garcia.
Lighting: Neil E Hobbs.
Sound: Edward Lewis.
Choreographer: Polly Bennett.