In 90 minutes of a gripping performance, Alexander Zeldin’s slice of social reality unnerves as it unfolds. Love succeeds where many fail in exploring some of the grinding reality behind temporary accommodation.
Unlike fairy tale happy endings, this show, although anchored in the period before Christmas, is void of festive lights. Yet the flicker of hope blinks through the characters’ power of endurance despite their utter despair. The only bright light here is the one that floods the auditorium throughout the show.
Love explores the reality of life in a temporary housing facility by focusing on two families – a young one of four, recently evicted from their rented accommodation and relocated in a poky single room. Emma, due to give birth in three weeks, her unemployed husband Dean, struggling to challenge the latest calamity without losing calm and their two school-aged children, Jason, who is clearly vexed and frustrated by the ’shit place’, and Paige, a cheerful daughter keen to get her part for the school Christmas play, right. In the neighbouring room resides Colin, a middle-aged man with his frail mother who also suffers from incontinence. A Sudanese female refugee and a Syrian male hover in the background.
The two families and two refugees share communal area of kitchen-dining space and a single toilet. Personal spaces clash and at one point collide, until common language between some of the individuals is established.
It is a moving, sobering and humbling experience to witness the impact of the harsh reality, we hear of in the press, on people’s lives. Sounds sentimental? It does not feel that way. Like a reality show watched so closely that you can almost touch it, Love, in parts, makes for uncomfortable viewing. Humour and sadness are bedfellows throughout the show. When Colin washes his mother’s hair over the kitchen sink, using Fairy liquid, the joyous vocal and facial expressions in this poignant scene generate a sense of intrusion into an intimate encounter between a loving son and a dependent mother. Emma, the young mother, struggles with dignity to maintain her family’s space and privacy. Her husband’s Kafkaesque battle with the authorities is balanced by the loving and caring father and husband we see in him.
Performances by all are equally excellent. Luke Clarke’s Dean, Janet Etuk’s Emma, Nick Holde’s Colin and Anna Calder-Marshall as Barbara maintain the fine balance between sentimentality and reality.
The young family’s children brighten the mood and dispel gloom. Yonatan Pelé Roodner’s Jason, the surly son, and Emily Beacock’s cheerful daughter, Paige, offer light relief and a small, yet important, outlet to the adults expressions of their emotional needs.
The stage’s open space merges into the auditorium where a fan-shaped additional rows of temporary seats, almost fuses stage and auditorium, and adds to the feel of reality of this show.
- By Alexander Zeldin and team
- Director: Alexander Zeldin
- Cast includes : Luke Clark, Janet Etuk, Nick Holder , Anna Calder-Marshall
- National Theatre, London
- Until 10 January 2016
- Review by Rivka Jacobson
- 16 December 2016