Pros: A beautifully acted, original show. Funny, surreal and engrossing.
Cons: Uncomfortable seats.
Although The Hope and Anchor is a pleasant and welcoming pub, The Hope Theatre which above, which consists of one very small room, is not an ideal performance space. For Lovesong of the Electric Bear, rows of extremely uncomfortable chairs are lined against three walls, leaving the stage space clear in the centre. Packed as tightly as possible to leave the actors space for the dynamic performance, the cramped seating makes watching this piece quite uncomfortable. That, however, is where my criticism begins and ends. I have nothing bad to say about the show beyond not liking my seat. The play itself is uncommonly fresh and exciting. It’s original, experimental, even surreal; yet never crosses the line in becoming incomprehensible, inaccessible, pretentious or too wacky.
Lovesong of the Electric Bear tells the story of Alan Turing, the mathematical genius who helped decipher German codes at Bletchley Park during World War 2. Turing was later prosecuted for homosexual acts, subjected to a ‘cure’ of hormone injections and eventually committed suicide at the age of 41. But the play does not take such a straightforward approach to narrating Turing’s story. Instead, our guide through the events of his life is Porgy, his beloved childhood teddy bear. Porgy whisks us through time on a sort of magical tour of Turing’s life, stage-managing scenes and characters as he goes. If this sounds a bit too whimsical or twee, don’t worry – it is merely strange and intriguing, not to mention very funny. Turing suffered at many points in his life and Lovesong of The Electric Bear is not without its dark and painful moments, but Porgy the teddy bear weaves humour and hope throughout. Although Porgy is a worldly teddy bear, often acting as Turing’s protector against the world, he also serves as a sweet reminder of Turing’s childishness and keeps the show from becoming gritty and grim.
The Hope Theatre’s production does credit to the brilliant oddness of the play. It is just as fresh and clever as the script itself. The show flits from fun to intense, helped by a great set that may not look like much at first, but is continuously transformed and re-imagined by clever use of a range of props. The small cast is just as flexible. Most of the actors play a range of characters from Turing’s life, faultless in their performances with particularly strong comic timing. It is a complicated and fragmented play; funny and intelligent; that tells a tough story with a light touch. In places exuberant, at other times shocking, Lovesong of the Electric Bear hints at deeper and darker emotions without descending to the depths of Turing’s suffering. It would be all too easy to make a sensationalist story out of Turing’s life – the genius war hero betrayed by his country for being gay. But Lovesong of the Electric Bear avoids this simplistic narrative and by doing so creates something that is much more interesting and memorable. An exciting, magical, odd and touching show that isn’t easy to forget.
Author: Snoo Wilson
Director: Matthew Parker
Producer: Cas Hodges
Booking Until: 21st March
Box Office: 0333 666 366
Booking Link: http://www.thehopetheatre.com/productions/lovesong-electric-bear/