“We never intended to be in this domestic situation”
Though it matters to few people, I’m never quite sure when to label something a re-review or not when I’ve previously seen the show albeit in a different incarnation. I first saw Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Love in November 2010 when Paines Plough took it on a small UK tour and I made the trip to Manchester to take in my first experience of the studio space at the Royal Exchange to be blown away by the show, which came 4th out of 270-odd plays for me that year. It toured again last year, though I was so fond of the original cast that I decided not to see it again and even when the Royal Court announced that it would play in the main house, I resisted for the longest time until I was offered a ticket for the final performance by a friend who offered me gin.
My original review can be read here and I’m not going to rehash what’s in there as the play remained substantially the same (plus the run has now finished), so I will confine myself to just a few remarks (for once) about the differences in productions, which have also come from conversations with others. The most significant change was in the casting of the two leads Kenneth and Sandra: I saw John Heffernan and Daniela Denby-Ashe who were probably closest in age to the first act and so the progression of their ageing across the three acts felt most natural. Here, Ben Miles and Victoria Hamilton are most at home in the middle act, which means they had to act down quite considerably in the first act which I found to be really rather distracting. The flipside to that of course was a greater authority later on, especially from the superlative Hamilton.
I liked George Rainsford’s damaged Jamie and Claire Foy’s bitter Rose, the children left frustrated by the actions of their baby boomer parents, their sense of entitlement rudely snatched away, and it’s always nice to see Sam Troughton onstage although its a shame it’s such a small part for him as Kenneth’s brother. James Grieve’s production maintains much the same look as the tour, with Lucy Osborne’s brilliantly flexible design fitting in perfectly into the Sloane Square venue, and all in all I was quite glad to have revisited in the end.
Bartlett’s writing is extremely sharp (though I do find it interesting that there now seems to be a trend to bash him) and really rather ambitious in its scope to peel back the veneer of civility in modern Britain to expose ugly truths about responsibility in a way that I don’t think any other writer in the UK is doing. Even if he doesn’t always succeed, he should be commended for trying and being hyper-critical helps no-one.