14 May 2012

Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett

Kenneth - Ben Miles
Henry - Sam Troughton
Sandra - Victoria Hamilton
Jamie - George Rainsford
Rosie - Claire Foy

Directed by James Grieve and designed by James Osborne

Grabbed a £10 cheapie at 9am this morning via the Royal Court's wonderful on-line and in person scheme. Had a great seat downstairs 
......in the the Jerwood Downstairs.

I'm happy to say I've chased Mr Bartlett's work wherever I can find it. Can it really be five years since "my child"?

His work has gone from strength to strength, always using his fearless voice to explore the intense fragility of relationships and how the prevailing social climate can shape them.

The way he writes for women as powerfully as he does for men must have had them queuing as far up as the Saatchi Gallery to be cast.

To say that Love, Love, Love is a culmination of all the work he's produced so far would be confining his career to an unnecessary retrospective but it certainly feels like a deeply satisfying distillation.

On paper, the running time seems potentially testing but there is nothing spare in this script. The only moments that drag are the two intervals, during which time sets are dismantled and constructed behind the most sumptuous festooned drapes.

The premise of this piece also allows all but one of these characters to develop beautifully before our eyes. Whilst they are all in some form of conflict with each other, their plights can be identified and empathised with equally.

The performances are all extraordinary.

When Ms Hamilton is dealt some disturbing news, if you are close enough to the stage you can see her at first lose colour as the sickness of the circumstance hits her followed by her cheeks shaking almost imperceptibly before the sob-free tears begin to well. I can only image this wonderful actress has a particularly awful experience to draw upon for this performance.

She is aided by the reassuringly solid performance of Ben Miles, without whose support I doubt she could deliver such a stunning portrayal. With the deployment of a couple of wigs, Mr Miles channels Cliff Richard as he flaunts his young and spirited body performance throughout the piece. He surely must have a crusty portrait in the loft somewhere. His opening scenes with the beautifully dour Mr Troughton are deliciously teasing and his character then travels via almost dependable through to whimsical by the end. I notice the touring version of this production cast a younger pairing but Ben was not just included because of his past, early experience with Mr Bartlett's work. He is the perfect Kenneth.

It is some time since I have seen Ms Foy in a regular stage production but it's very easy to see how she came to be cast in a leading television role so early in her career. There is a fluid beauty to her performance. It's passionate and yet contained which is not always easy to achieve on screen, let alone on a stage.

Mr Rainsford's performance was at first hilarious moving to deeply touching in the final act. As with Claire, it's too long since I last saw him on stage.

I cannot speak more highly of this production. It could even be perfect. I may not be in a position to see as much theatre as I used to but when my choices include pieces like this, I feel sated. However, I do realise that my objectivity resides in a more narrow channel.

I would even go so far as to say the Royal Court's trailer excels itself too.

I may loiter in the slips for one of the post-show talks.