In June 1967, The Beatles appeared on Our World, the world’s first live television satellite link-up that was watched by roughly 400 million people across the world. While this major event was happening, playwright Mike Bartlett has envisioned a much smaller life-changing moment also occurring. In Love, Love, Love, presented by Red Stitch and directed by Denny Lawrence, two free-spirited nineteen year-olds meet for the first time in a small London flat. Sparks are immediate, and we visit their relationship again in 1990, and then in 2011.
The chance encounter between Kenneth and
Sandra (Paul Ashcroft and Ella Caldwell) in the first act is full of excitement
and energy and there is a genuine spark between the two actors. With the addition
of Jordan Fraser-Trumble as Kenneth’s more conservative older brother, the
script develops at a solid pace. However, the following two acts struggled to
retain my interest as much as the first. There was nothing engaging or new
about what I was watching and it culminated in a pseudo-ending with white
middle-class people complaining about how hard life is. It reached the point
where the characters themselves become far less likeable, especially Sandra who
ends up resembling a B-grade character from Absolutely Fabulous.
For their part though, Caldwell and
Ashcroft put in solid performances and watching them interact on stage together
was a highlight of the whole production. It’s a shame these impressive actors
weren’t given something more substantial into which they could sink their
teeth. Rory Kelly and Jem Nicholas do well with their roles as Kenneth and
Sandra’s children, Jamie and Rosie, despite how terribly they are written. I
was also quite impressed with Fraser-Trumble, and would have liked to see him
and his character return later in the story.
I am still amazed at the visual
transformations of the stage space in Red Stitch shows. I can’t recall
a season where it has been anything but inspiring, and the same can be
said about Love, Love, Love. The costumes by Sophie Woodward and
set design by Jacob Battista are appealing and well-presented, although the
second act takes place in 1990 but still had a strong 80s feel to it visually.
The direction started off strong and felt
very alive and in the moment but by the time we got to the final act, it seemed
to become unimaginative and almost lazy. The actors appeared to be stuck trying
to keep the momentum gathering, while the storyline became mundane and
predictable. A potential plot with Jamie was incredulously ignored and I was
baffled as to why we ended up dealing with the chosen issues.
Despite the positive start to Love,
Love Love, from the second act onwards the hard work begins to slowly
unravel. Even with the great performances by the two leads, it is one of the
less memorable works put to stage by Red Stitch.
Venue: Red Stitch
Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.
4 July | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sat 3:00pm, Sun 6:30pm
Full | $20-27 Conc
Bookings: Red Stitch Actors Theatre
Original review appeared on Theatre Press on 9 June