Directed by Kerry Michael
Pros: Slick, technically excellent and a text-book example of how to present a huge range of characters with very few actors.
Cons: Hard to develop an emotional attachment to the piece.
Our Verdict: A gently enjoyable insight into a 35 year-old marriage where one partner makes a radical decision. Quite funny, extremely well executed, but lacking in tension which stops it from being truly engaging.
|Credit: Robert Day
Love N Stuff is a technically excellent piece of theatre. It’s full of genuinely amusing quips, and an impressive array of exuberant characters is breathed in to life by just two people. I was very impressed by the execution of it all. However, it lacks emotional investment and the storyline feels a bit ‘plonked in’. Consequently, I found the show gently entertaining, like a holiday read, but no more.
The majority of the play is set in what is probably the world’s most melodramatic place: an airport terminal. Mansoor, a late middle-aged Indian man who embodies a piece of fudge (sweet, malleable and persistent), is resolved to returning to India after spending his life in Stratford. This includes leaving his wife of 35 years (or 30 depending which one of them you want to believe), who point blank refuses to join him.
It is a lovely piece of social, cultural and romantic commentary. Bindi, his wife, is a fierce, manipulative bully, yet somehow actor Rina Fatania manages to bring out those facets as endearing and understandable. What is clearly a text-book dysfunctional relationship almost becomes a love song. The play sweeps back and forth to various points in their relationship, usually to clear up some bickering, and we slowly get to see what is important to the characters. It’s quite crass and not to my taste in this way, but it isn’t gratuitous and feels very true to the characters.
Although there were only two actors, in my mind’s eye I see each of them as being totally distinct. This was thanks to some very clever work by director Kerry Michael and the cast. There were no black outs, each turn of character was shown by a transforming gesture, occasionally a costume change or prop, but mostly by accent and physical presence. I especially liked actor Tony Jayawardena’s switches between fudgy Mansoor and epicene Akbar; there were several occasions on which the two characters were in very close proximity, yet there was never any trouble guessing who was who.
The first section is mostly Bindi and friends trying to persuade Mansoor not to leave. In a comical fashion, we are introduced to each character and their ideas to foil Mansoor’s flight. It looks like a sudden, ill thought-out mid-life crisis, but then, towards the latter part of the play, we find out that there are other reasons behind his decision. This comes out of nowhere. The characters are so believable in convincing us that there is nothing more to his escape than a mid-life crisis that I didn’t feel the need to intellectually or emotionally pick a side; I just assumed that Mansoor was in the wrong. The result is that the latter part of the play – when it becomes apparent that there is more to Mansoor than first meets the eye – feels a little bit tacked on.
This is true about the whole play to some extent. I love the fact that this is a sequel to Wah! Wah! Girls – I would like to see more sequels in theatre. However, the play gives off the feeling that it is an excuse to bring the characters back rather than to serve a function itself. It’s certainly an enjoyable night at the theatre, but it needs to generate more of an emotional investment from the audience to really make it a stand out evening.
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Love N Stuff runs at Theatre Royal Stratford East until Sunday 5th October 2013.
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