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City Love, CLF Art Café – Review

Simon Vinnicombe

★★★★
Pros: Funny, truthful and touching.
Cons: Perhaps at times the pace of the dialogue was a little frenetic. I was little disappointed by the lack of London imagery in the stage design.
Our Verdict: An intelligently put together, poignant exploration of modern London-based love.
Credit: Sam Swainsbury
City Love, by emerging writer, Simon Vinnicombe expertly explores modern relationships. It tells the story of Lucy and Jim. They are alone in London; both with very differing views of their city and their current situations. But both longing for a deeper connection. After a chance meeting on a number 12 night bus they embark on an ill-fated love affair. The text is funny, blunt and painfully true. It explores the euphoria and gratification of love and companionship. How it can consume and redefine us. ‘People like me better when I’m with her’ Jim says. Conjointly it also unearths and exposes its fragility. How deep set insecurities can dictate how we interact, even with those we care about the most, with disastrous consequences. How exchanges and relationships can become so protracted and complicated that they end up impossible to recover or reconcile. Ultimately how love can be exhilarating, comforting, regretful, passionate, hollow, desolate and precious all at the same time. 
Along the way the landscape of the city is the constant backdrop to this love affair. The couple meet on a bus, have their first kiss in a park, meet the parents out in the suburbs. As the marketing for the piece suggests, for anyone who’s been in love and lives in the city, it’s infinitely relatable. It’s an excellent piece of new writing. 
The Orange Line Collective, a newly formed theatre group supported by Arts Council funding, have done this text complete justice. The CLF Art Café is a great new multi-arts venue which hosts a wide range of creative projects. So it’s a good choice in the up and coming area of Peckham Rye. The collective, who staffed the entrances, were just as friendly and professional as they claim to be on their website and this, their first project since forming, is an impressive start. 
The actors Lucy (Natasha Broomfield) and Jim (Ian Bonar) effortlessly tell the story as if recounting it years later, but also, and at the same time, as if it’s happening that very moment. Flitting between directly addressing the audience and talking to each other seems a breeze for them. Their pitch and delivery of the funnier parts of the text is spot on and though at points the pace of the dialogue becomes a little frenetic and some of the jokes are lost this doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. 
The staging is simple but effective with two black platforms on either side of the space; one for each lover. This layout lends itself well to the action, enabling the actors to physically indicate the nature of their changing relationship. They stand on their own platform alone; join in the middle, join together on one side or, at certain moments, sit behind the protection of the staging turned away from each other completely. Suspended between the platforms from the ceiling is a clutter and tangle of objects collected on Lucy and Jim’s journey together; bus tickets, my little ponies and mix tapes in a muddled upended mess – a visual depiction of the lover’s story. Being a lover of London I suppose the only thing I felt disappointed about was the lack of London imagery used in the set design. Having said that, this could be down to budget restraints, or the fact that the London specific references aren’t that heavy within the text past the number 12 bus reference. Perhaps, therefore, the collective decided to steer clear of making it too London.
This production of City Love is an intelligent and carefully put together exploration of modern Love. The text, naturally, makes you consider your own situation which can be unsettling but the experience is ultimately a comfort. It reminds you that others feel and act the same way as you often do and that all our worlds are complicated. Don’t miss this piece and – don’t miss the lovely little animation about the play on the collectives’ website.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

City Love runs until the 28th September at the CLF Art Café a.k.a the Bussey Building. Box Office 020 7732 5275 or for more information and to book online visit: http://www.clfartcafe.org/#!theatre/ck0q

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