Alexander Zeldin’s latest devised play is simply about existence in temporary housing at Christmas time for four different groups. Except, it isn’t that simple. Stunted by the failings of local government bureaucracy, the lack of housing, and the difficulties of living in such close quarters with your own family, let alone others, we are given a snapshot of the exasperation and frustration that these people experience.
The most devastating part of Zeldin’s play is that these are people, and definitely not characters. We see the mundaneness of the warming of soup, the necessity to disinfect tables before meals. Squabbles happen over whose cup is whose and the use of the bathroom. Whilst the substitution of shampoo for Fairy liquid is funny, it also acts as a poignant reminder of how little these people actually have.
Not that many reminders are, indeed, necessary. Natasha Jenkins creates a dank, dilapidated environment of the numbered rooms, single bathroom and institutional lighting. A tree rattles the window outside as water begins to leak in. Marc Williams’ lighting is superb: keeping the house lights on, but unoffensibly so, we cannot implement escapism. Although not preachy, we are forced to face up to the reality of life for the people in Zeldin’s play.
Luke Clarke and Janet Etuk create a touching pair ox expecting parents, coupled with Clarke’s children from a previous relationship – the consciously aware Darcey Brown and the obnoxiously funny Bobby Stallwood. Nick Holder is superb as Colin, a middle-aged man who cares for his aging and incontinent mother, played by the fantastic Anna Calder-Marshall.
She ends the play searching amongst the audience for some kind of escape, some kind of resolution, but as the bows are taken, she returns to her old room. For these people, the cycle continues. Hopefully LOVE will have some impact to find some answers for the thousands of people who actually suffer as do those in the play.
- By Alexander Zeldin and team
- Director: Alexander Zeldin
- Cast includes: Nick Holder, Luke Clarke, Janet Etuk, Anna Calder-Marshall, Hind Swareldahab
- Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham
- Until 11th February 2017
- Review by Harry Tennison
- 30 January 2017