Pros: Who hasn’t heard of a relationship that was based on deception? Love Lies is a play to which everybody can relate in some way.
Cons: Every element of this production misses a bit of sparkle.
After a sold-out run of its first production Snapshots, presented in 2015 at the Rosemary Branch, LEMAD comes back to the London theatre scene with Love Lies. Behind the acronym LEMAD are Liz Mead, Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson, Mari Lloyd, Mary Ann Pashigian and Daphne Peña, all graduates of the John Burgess playwriting course and, as they like to describe themselves, ‘all old enough to know better’.
Love Lies is a selection of five short tales on the tricks and traps of beguiling love. What Friends Are For, written by Mari Lloyd, is set in the switchboard room of a hospital. Cath (Lucy Aley-Parker) and Anne (Taha Haq) are talking about one of their colleagues, who has found love on a dating website and is now moving to the US to join her partner. As we might imagine, reality will prove these two sceptical women right, as they insist on the slim likelihood of a man revealing his true identity on the net.
The topic of fake personas and cybernetic aliases is taken up again by Daphne Peña in her Catfish. Helen (played by the author herself) is worried about her daughter Jess (Taha Haq), who is obsessively attached to online dating. To help her overcome this addiction, Helen decides to hire a ‘professional companion’ (James Eyres) who’ll have the task of making Jess fall in love with a man of flesh and blood. Will that go to plan?
Liz Mead’s Half sheds some light on the hesitations of an older couple trapped in a vortex of routine and infidelity. She (Lucy Aley-Parker) and he (Neil Summerville) talk directly to the public, explaining how their marriage crumbled under the weight of boredom and lack of intimacy. A flirtation with a younger colleague seemed the best escape for the deluded man until he realised that this is only a will-o’-the-wisp.
In Lovefool, Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson tells the story of Sveta, skilfully portrayed by Daphne Peña, and Ben (James Eyres), two lovers and business partners whose main occupation is the deception of sentimentally vulnerable but financially prosperous ladies. The audience sees Ben torn between spending some time with his beloved eight-year old daughter or seducing a woman worth £1.6 million. Which will he choose?
Finally, Reel Love is Mary Ann Pashigian’s take on the interrelation between feelings and opportunism, especially where career progression is concerned. As the case of Ruby (Taha Haq) and Marty (Neil Summerville) makes us wonder, how honest are we towards others when we’re trying to reach a professional goal? If we get the opportunity, are we prone to use our charm to seduce our superiors or might we show-off our power to impress an attractive subordinate?
The common factor in all these stories is that things aren’t necessarily as they appear and relationships are often a minefield for gullible people, who become an easy target for all sorts of crooks. The execution is smooth but misses some sparkle. There are jokes, which sometimes aren’t particularly funny, and at times it’s difficult to understand whether the authors wanted to give a serious or ironic cut to the story. The set is minimal, consisting mostly of a couple of chairs and a table, and the costumes are plain. The topics touched are familiar and somehow representative of our times, but their treatment is too mild and deserves some polishing. Ultimately, is an entertaining and interesting show to enjoy with friends, especially if followed by a bit of discussion at the pub beneath the lovely Hope Theatre.
Authors: Liz Mead, Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson, Mari Lloyd, Mary Ann Pashigian and Daphne Peña
Director: Rob Henderson
Producer: LEMAD theatre
Box Office: 0333 666 3366
Booking link: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/event/125215
Booking Until: 24 April 2016