Love, Love, Love is a play for all generations and one which everyone will identify with differently based on their lived experience. Mike Bartlett takes full advantage of the three act structure, taking us from 1967 to 2011 in the space of one evening. We follow couple Kenneth and Sandra from when they first meet at the height of Beatlemania in the 1960s through to testing family life and finally retirement. There is an interval between each act which feels apt considering the great time jumps and allows us to keep a certain distance from the action.
The fourth wall is very much up in this production. As part of the set a huge rectangular frame is positioned at the front of the stage. It’s as if we’re watching TV, tuning in to see how events unfolded over time. Joanna Scotcher’s set is changed for each act and successfully captures the feel of every era. The audience gets a slice of theatre magic whenever the curtain raises and a new set is revealed.
This play’s charm is in its satirical comedy. The structure feels almost skit-like, as if we’re flicking through TV channels, an effect which works in direct opposition to the action on stage. The first act is one of idealism, with cartoonish wigs and a psychedelic print dress: it all feels light-hearted and nostalgic. Oh the glory days! Fast forward 23 years and we’re witnessing a family falling apart at the seams as they chomp on birthday cake. It’s dark and twisted but makes you chuckle. Bartlett masterfully plays with the dialogue, treading the line between light and dark.
It all comes to a head in the third act when daughter Rose pleads for her parents to buy her a house and their son Jamie’s condition has deteriorated. Love, love, love seems to have been replaced with resentment, irritation and dejection. The loving parents are completely out of touch with their children. Kenneth boasts about making four times his daughter’s salary in retirement without even lifting a finger, as Bartlett shows how out of touch the older generation has become. There is now a class and social divide between parents and children. They are at opposite end of the spectrum. No amount of love can combat it or help them understand each other. Love isn’t all you need.
The performances on show are a real highlight. Nicholas Burns and Rachael Stirling are able to bring charisma and playfulness to their somewhat dislikeable characters. They play all three ages with subtlety and conviction, as do Isabella Laughland and Mike Noble, who swap from 14 and 16 year olds to middle aged adults. Patrick Knowles as Henry also gives a commanding performance in the first act. The company gels well together and the production as a whole feels cohesive as it jumps through time, a credit to director Rachel O’Riordan. I would definitely try and catch this production if you have the chance.
Written by: Mike Bartlett
Directed by: Rachel O’Riordan
Produced by: Lyric Hammersmith
Booking Link: https://lyric.co.uk/shows/love-love-love/
Booking Until: 4 April 2020