by Andy Fawthrop
Images used with kind permission of Chris Watkins Media
Been a while since I’d been to our town’s lovely little theatre, and it was a joy to go back again.…..
The occasion was the staging of Abi Morgan’s “Lovesong”. Now I happen to be a fan of Abi Morgan’s writing, and anyone who watched the recent BBC1 three-series drama “The Split” will know exactly what I’m on about. Her catalogue of work in TV, film and live theatre has won plenty of much-deserved critical acclaim. Accordingly, I was very much looking forward to this production, about which I’d heard many positive comments (and which we briefly previewed here at Devizine recently).
The play, directed by the talented Freddie Underwood, no stranger to Wharf productions for a few years now, is a tight emotional drama. Starring only four actors – Imogen Riley, Adam Ball, John Winterton and Tor Burt – “Lovesong” tells the story of one couple from two different points in their lives, both as young lovers in their 20s, and as older companions looking back on their lives. Their relationship is reviewed by their past and present selves, blending youthful yearning and optimism with more worldly experience. The start of a youthful relationship blends with an impending death.
I found the production quite mesmerising, captured by the verbal and physical choreography of the piece. The tactile interactions of the two couples (being really the same couple) was offset by their inability to talk to their future or past selves, only their contemporaneous partner. It made for some interesting debates, particularly in the second half, about whether time (and space) is linear, or whether the past, present and future are somehow all fused together. Life events happen, they come and go, but emotions and feelings are far more complex than that.
The two younger members of the cast – Imogen Riley and Adam Ball – gave confident and assured performances, looking quite at home on the stage as the younger version of the couple. But it was the elder version of the couple – played by John Winterton (in a rare appearance in front of the audience), and the talented and evergreen Tor Burt – that edged it for me. It may be an age thing, but I found the way that they inhabited their roles quite fascinating. Their concerns, their issues and their undoubted love for each other were conveyed in an utterly convincing performance.
I won’t spoil the ending (and you can see it coming a mile off) but it was pretty heart-wrenching, and there were plenty of weepy eyes in the auditorium to prove it.
For me, this was an ideal type of production to run at the Wharf, given its tight space restrictions on stage. A cast of only four had enough room on a sparsely-dressed stage to actually move and to breathe, and therefore you could concentrate on the words and the action, without your eye being distracted any purely physical/ practical stage constraints in productions with a larger cast.
I found the music in the first half slightly distracting, but the balance felt much better in the second half. That minor quibble aside, this was overall a superb production. Starting with Abi Morgan’s tautly-scripted prose, Freddie Underwood’s assured direction, working with four very good actors on stage, and we had the recipe for success. Very highly recommended.
Future productions at The Wharf Theatre:
23rd – 26th June The World Under The Wood
19th – 24th September Hedda Garbler
1st October The Lesson (Icarus Theatre Company) – one night only
7th October London Philharmonic Skiffle Orchestra – one night only