Pros: A welcome introduction to some fascinating myths.
Cons: One dimensional: lots to listen to, not much to look at.
This Thing Called Love is a seasonal offering from Crick Crack Club, in which three performance storytellers share tales on the themes of love, lust and sex. The term ‘club’ is not misplaced. In the theatre at Rich Mix there was a pleasantly relaxed vibe. Audience members chatted to each other and during the interval the storytellers hung out near the bar with everyone else. It seemed like we were in a minority of Crick Crack newbies.
This show has more in common with stand-up than with theatre. Each performer has his or her distinctive look and manner of delivery. Each one stands up, tells a little story, and then sits down again, and as in stand-up, all focus is on the performer. The problem is that settings create expectations, and when I go to a theatre, with a stage and rows of seating, I expect some cocktail of theatrical ingredients. So this show felt one-dimensional. The lighting never varied, and there was no music or sound during the show to create atmosphere. By way of set there was a sort of love-shrine at the back of the stage, dressed with romantic cliches; red roses, red lingerie, Milk Tray, the Kama Sutra and, less obviously, a flamingo. Being limited to staring fixedly at the man in the suit, the man in the spangly shirt, or the woman in the leather trousers was, I found, actually obstructive to imaginative transports. Listening to an audiobook while staring into space on the treadmill might have been more imaginatively liberating.
Most, if not all the stories, are versions of traditional tales, and they are told in very short form. In some cases they work: when the wind falls in love with a flower it is a charming little riddle; the ironic punchline to the story of a search for the perfect wife is delivered with great timing. In other cases the stories are less successful. A version of Cap O’Rushes, the girl who taught her father the value of salt, doesn’t really add any new dimension to a story that is already well-known, not least thanks to King Lear. The tale of an abandoned baby is depressing without being terribly illuminating. Then there are stories that don’t seem to do justice to their source material; the meeting of Arjuna and Alli, the destruction of a love imp and the battle between Maui and Te Tuna are all delivered with tongue firmly in cheek. Perhaps this is the only sensible way to approach Valentine’s Day, and certainly I was glad to have been introduced to these new stories. But more than anything else, the style of telling made me want to read the Mahabharata for myself, or seek out a Polynesian elder to relate the myth with conviction.
If we had been sitting around a campfire in the Outback, or locked in the village pub after closing time, the stripped back, freehand model of storytelling would have been a delightful treat. But this was a theatre, and I wanted more to engage me. That said, it’s clear that Crick Crack Club have a very loyal following, and the ‘pop-up’ nature of their shows means that while I didn’t really love This Thing Called Love, there may be another one along next week that’s right up my street.
Producer: Crick Crack Club
Booking Until: This show has now ended its run.