Directed by Zoe Ford
To The End Of Love
Directed by Sean Turner
Pros: Two plays for the price of one. Well-crafted, well-produced performances set in an intimate space.
Cons: The individual character storylines lacked that spark of originality.
Our Verdict: An intensely moving and depressing show – wouldn’t recommend it for someone looking for a jovial night out. Gripping, though not particularly groundbreaking.
|Courtesy of Lonesome Schoolboy Productions
When I was 14, I vowed never to watch a single episode of Hollyoaks again. In fact, I turned my back on every soap – I’d grown tired of the same old formula: moaning, snogging, then a sodding great ridiculous event chucked in to keep everyone interested. What did for Hollyoaks was a storyline involving two of the show’s stalwarts, Tony Hutchinson and Ruth Osborne. They decided to rescue a character who’d been held captive in a watertank, only for them to end up fannying around in a rubber dinghy at the mercy of the deranged bad guy. It was then that a profound thought entered my naïve, impressionable, 14-year-old mind: ‘what an absolute load of bollocks’. I didn’t even wait to see if they made it out alive.
So imagine my shock when, a few minutes into the first piece of this double bill, who should pop onto the stage? None other than Ruth bloody Osborne, AKA Hollyoaks legend Terri Dwyer, in her new guise of Jen, a long-suffering daughter from a family of long-suffering women
This was Wounds, the Hate part of the night, which had interestingly also been assigned a gender: the entire cast, director and writer were women. The play centres around a stubborn matriarch trying to keep control of her wayward offspring, and grand-offspring, as they attempt to deal with their own personal problems.
Each line was performed admirably, as you’d expect from an experienced cast. And despite all having similar troubled traits, the actors very quickly created their own distinct personalities. The action would neatly flit back and forward in time, teasing out scenes that would reveal more and more of their desperate lives. The one constant was the room itself: the sofa, the coffee table crammed with cups of tea, silently witnessing the events unfold. It was poignant but depressing stuff.
And it didn’t get any less tragic from then on. Like Wounds, To The End Of Love has melancholy at its heart. This time an all-male cast and production, it follows five men who have each been deeply affected by both the life and death of a beautiful young woman, Stella. Cleverly, each of them narrates what is in effect their own love story through interaction with a counsellor who, like the sofa in Wounds, observes passively as the characters slowly crumble around him.
The play starts off at Stella’s funeral, with a very simple set of two church pews leading up to a haunting painting of the deceased. From then on, the pews were energetically tossed around to form, for example, a front door or a concert stage in scenes that illustrated our characters’ flashbacks. The snappy writing – often the individual love story monologues would weave between each other when the action became more passionate – added a nice pace to proceedings. So too did the delivery and choreography of the actors, who all remained on stage throughout.
In a sense, both plays are about the terrible consequences of selfishness, making it a nicely-connected double bill. Thankfully, both also used humour to dispel – albeit for a moment – the morbid intensity that ran through the stories.
It was all so very real: real people, real problems. And with the Cockney accents and the stock ‘leave it out’ retorts, I felt like I’d been transported onto the set of Eastenders – all my soap nightmares were creeping back quicker than you can say ‘Family Affairs’.
This was my main issue. As the night progressed, I found myself yearning for a glimpse of the ridiculous I had shunned all those years ago. I don’t mean a full-on bonkers Christmas-special-style bonanza bust-up – just some theatrical magic that would steer it away from the bleak, well-trodden storylines soap viewers are so familiar with. Yes, the time-shifting storytelling was interesting and well-crafted, but I felt overall it didn’t push any boundaries. I felt I’d seen it all before. And in fact, I had: Terri Dwyer’s character had a storyline similar to one that Ruth Osborne had in Hollyoaks. But hey, at least she was on dry land.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Love vs Hate runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre until 20th April 2013.