After A Matter of Love, a show that rattles through at a breakneck pace before coming to a shuddering halt, on a slip of paper, the audience is invited to share their thoughts on what they believe love is. I was personally reminded of a less puritanical aspect in my religious upbringing, in which the congregation one Sunday was asked to consider St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, Chapter 13. The King James Bible renders the word ‘love’ as ‘charity’, but nonetheless the exercise was to substitute ‘love’ or ‘charity’ for your own name. And then the faithful can discover where they need to improve. I could never get past “Chris never faileth” and maintain a straight face.
Anyway, as a piece of theatre, this is a little messy. No matter – the producers have emphasised it’s a ‘work in development’, which in many respects can explain away my concerns that it’s too short, too rushed, and too narrow. But, as it stands, it’s extremely physical in places, to the point that it is almost exhausting to watch. It never fails to hold interest, though, in the various stages that the unnamed characters performed by Yoshika Colwell and Oliver Henn go through together.
Another layer to the plot is added in the form of scientific explanations, voiced over by Harry Whittaker, which work well when the actors are performing in concert with what is being explained, and somewhat less well when they appear to be patiently sat there waiting for the spiel to finish. The science isn’t too detailed (that is, never over-analytical) and seems to restrict itself to the ‘how’ rather than the ‘why’. I recall a newspaper article some time ago describing kissing merely as a mutual exchange of microbes and bacteria: thankfully, this production doesn’t see everything through such purely scientific lenses.
There’s much that any given (adult) audience can relate to, and the characters are both highly believable and entertaining, insofar as their conduct is sometimes poignant, sometimes hilarious, and always impassioned. The body language is simply excellent throughout, demonstrating how what isn’t said has the ability to ‘speak’ just as much, if not more, than what is spoken.
We, the audience, have been asked for our thoughts to further develop this play, and I make the following suggestions. ‘Love’ as defined here is the one between two halves of a relationship, and while there is some talk of starting a family, the love that a doting parent has for a child evolves over time too, for instance, and could be further investigated. The Ancient Greeks had different terms for various types of love, and while ‘eros’ is an interesting concept to explore – and this play does it well – there’s so much more out there. What, for example, of unconditional love?
Further, I have referred to the term ‘the critical incident’ elsewhere, a life-changing event in the lives of characters in a play that irreversibly changes the tone and direction of a production. Why is it that some relationships are made stronger by a cancer diagnosis or the loss of a parent, and yet others in a similar situation crumble under the pressure? I think the multidimensional approach used in Nick Payne’s ‘Constellations’ could also be explored, looking at different outcomes dependent on choices made.
I suppose I should actually attempt an answer to ‘What is love?’ You could argue that it’s a cop-out response, but it’s quite simple. Love, truly experienced, is beyond an explanation. It is a force of nature that doesn’t make complete sense. And if you can make complete sense of it, is it really love?
A pleasant experience, A Matter of Love has the potential to be something more than your typical romantic comedy or love story. In many ways it is already just that.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Can science really explain what we mean when we talk of love?
A Matter of Love follows the story of two people who allow us to observe and to share in their narrative. We see them meet, their hearts race and palms sweat; get excited, find common ground, find brilliance in passion and stumble over unrealised emotions.
They are a universal couple: they are you and I.
Mind Over Matter ask, where do science and relationships meet? Are emotions just physical responses to stimuli or are they something more? if love is just a sensation then how do we account for its longevity?
Mind Over Matter Theatre Collective bring their latest dynamic, physical, and multimedia performance to the Etcetera for three nights only!
In collaboration with philosophers Helen Yetter-Chappell and Prof. Dorothea Debus
15th January 2016 – 17th January 2016 at 9:00pm