Sex and love in the modern age gets a little confusing, for everyone, in Love Me Now at the Tristan Bates Theatre
“It can be anything you want it to be”
One of my favourite characters in early-season Dawson’s Creek was Abby. Allowed to walk on the wild side far more than any of the leads, she was a bright pop of colour in Capeside but because she liked a drink, she had to die. First-time-writer Michelle Barnette may not have intended this allusion but in this tale of casual sex gone awry, it was what sprung to mind.
But as Love Me Now attempts to explore “the toxicity of casual dating”, maybe it is an appropriate reference. Her characters A (Alistair Toovey’s ripped cocksure man-child) and B (Helena Wilson’s Insta-loving professional woman) are engaged in the kind of no-strings affair of Tinder’s dreams, only things have gotten complicated. She wants more commitment, he just wants more head.
Is the heteronormative casual sex scene so incapable of defining no strings? Is the potential for mutually satisfying fun so outweighed by possible toxicity? Does rational behaviour – for both men and women – really fly out the door in the face of the societal imperative to be in a relationship? Straight people be crazy…
It wouldn’t be quite so much of an issue if Barnette had identified a stronger dramatic throughline here, a clearer sense of what she’s trying to say. But as she experiments with form, as earlier scenes overlap and replay, Love Me Now becomes hazier and with the introduction of C (Gianbruno Spena), presenting a different form of problematic masculinity, its intent feels murkier than it necessarily need be.
For there’s interest here, much which tugs at probing trains of thought. One scene which I found highly comic at the end depicts a troubling power dynamic that only occurred to me later, indicating the importance of perspective. And creatively, Jamie Armitage’s production features superb design work from Fin Redshaw (set), Ben Jacobs (lighting) and Andy Josephs (sound) to externalise so many of the feelings here.