LOVEPLAY by Moira Buffini
The Minack Theatre till 23 October 2020
Box Office – 01736 810181
Review by Cormac Richards- 16 October 2020
Sitting down in a theatre to review a show for the first time in over 7 months will certainly be one of my highlights of 2020. I have been to the amazing, open-air, Minack Theatre a number of times both as audience member and performer and it is extraordinary in so many ways. The fact that, as soon as it was able to open after the national lockdown, it got a season of shows up and running with audiences flocking to watch, is to their enormous credit. With a number of alterations to the theatre made and working on a 30% or so capacity, it has shown what can be done. Support for this jewel of a theatre has been tremendous from the public.
In Ben Kernow (founder of Ha-Hum-Ah Theatre Company, who The Minack have partnered with for this production) the Theatre has found an inspiring, willing and motivated actor/director who jumped at the chance to be able to offer some work to unemployed actors and provide much needed entertainment for the theatre-starved.
To sit on a cliffside in October in a chill wind for 90 minutes and watch a play without an interval, may seem like desperate measures to get ones fix, but the crowd, who turned up for this production of LOVEPLAY by Moira Buffini, will have gone home with desire satiated and thirst quenched.
LOVEPLAY is an episodic look at love and sex, played out over 2000 years in the same, ever-changing location. So, we start in the Dark Ages and then drift through the Middle Ages, the Tudors, the Victorians and hence we come up to date. The vignettes differ in length and tone, but explore many of the same facets of the bonding of humans. At times, the writers’ tongue is firmly in cheek, while at others, there is something more serious and sinister to share with the audience. There moments of laugh out loud comedy – the ridiculous dance sequence for instance – and moments of supreme tenderness – the men whose love for each other they have always had to deny.
The very nature of episodic theatre is that some sections will work better than others and that is the case here; the faux Shakespearean tale slightly overstays its welcome and I wanted rather more of the prim and proper woman who realises she needs to see a man ‘in a state of undress’ – it was intriguing and ended too soon. But these are small caveats; the play is never less than entertaining and provocative – within the first 10 minutes we have broad comedy and rape.
Tackling all the roles are four actors who completely throw themselves into the script and all produce exceptional performances; Elena Valentine, Georgia Nicholson, Dan Bottomley and Liam Jeavons provide a wonderful showreel of characterisations with depth and a glint in the eye.
Keeping continuity between the ten scenes is always going to be a challenge and here the production offers an inventive and perfect answer. Incidental music is not, in itself, an original device but when modern day love songs are re-jigged to reflect the music of the era being portrayed, it is simply a stroke of genius – Dan Bottomley’s work here offers a considerable touch of class to the proceedings. The whole soundscape is smartly designed as is the lighting by Simon Hutchings which, when used well at The Minack, is almost a character in itself.
Ben Kernow, once again, demonstrates his strengths as a storyteller. He creates a free-flowing and visually satisfying production and marshals his actors without fuss but with precision and with the script always in mind. Direction like this can pass people by; the input of the director can appear to be invisible – that is the art and Kernow has it in spades.
LOVEPLAY is a challenging but engaging satire on how the issues which develop out of love and desire have changed little over 2000 years. By the end, are we any wiser about what love is or how one finds it? I think we are all still trying to answer that question – the answer may be out there somewhere! HA-HUM-AH Theatre Company are here able to demonstrate to a wider public the quality of their work and the possibilities they can offer; an opportunity that they are fully deserving of.
Bravo to everyone involved with bringing the production to the stage and offering a glimmer of light to the theatre stages everywhere.
Director – BEN KERNOW
Sound Design – Dan Bottomley
Lighting Design – Simon Hutchings
Designer – Marion Harrison
Assistant Director & Stage Manager -Milly Brolly
Producer – Zoe Curnow