The Islington Pleasance main space is lovely, all cabaret tables and excellent sightlines, and it’s always a friendly venue, and very much worth the visit.
There was a long queue on a sunny Friday evening in London to see this short play looking at ‘the messiness of grief,’ and asking ‘if love can survive when someone else dies.’ There are content warnings as you enter, highlighting that the show contains strong language and references to suicide, and the night I went there were plenty of Cruse Bereavement Support charity staff on hand, and in the audience, for anyone finding the content triggering.
The play follows the story of Ava (Sophie Craig) and Theo (Andy Umerah) as they meet, fall in love, and cope with the loss of Ava’s father and the ricochet effects of the death of a loved one. We get off to a very funny and rollicking start, where Karaoke spills over into uncomplicated sex, which quite quickly becomes more complex than it may have seemed. Both have commitment fears and their own hurdles to leap over, and just when everything seems settled and resolved Ava’s father dies.
The direction (Toby Clarke) and the set design (SAS Works) are excellent and there are genuinely beautiful and thoughtful uses of the set and props, and the pace is good, keeping the scenes overlapping and flowing without ever being confusing and both Craig and Umerah make great use of their physical theatre skills and deliver a strong range of emotions – we do invest in their relationship and root for them to be okay.
Sean McLevy plays both the father and the counsellor with gentle skill, and there were definitely people in the audience reaching for tissues at some of the more emotional moments. The composition and sound design (Jack Edmonds) is also used to good effect, with Ava’s father’s piano and composition being a central element of the play.
I had some small concerns about Ava’s idealisation of her father, surely no-one is that perfect, and there is some confusion about the mention of her mother, who seems to be around and yet be no support or place of refuge in the aftermath of his death, and some of the longer speeches in the counsellor/Ava section seem a little laboured, but the heart of this play is in the right place, and will resonate with anyone struggling to get over a loss or support a bereaved partner.
Overall, ‘I love you, now what’, is a tender and emotional journey that may be cathartic for many members of the audience.
Review by Roz Wyllie
Can love survive when someone dies?
‘No bastard ever warned me that your love life goes down the shitter when someone dies.’
This brilliantly funny, heart-warming and raw debut play by actor and comedian Sophie Craig, examines a beautifully ugly story about grief and love’s place within it.
I Love You, Now What? opens a window into Ava and Theo’s lives, following the diagnosis and loss of her father, causing her world to come tumbling down.
Directed by Toby Clarke (director of the Olivier-nominated Warheads) and produced by The REcreate Agency.
Writer: Sophie Craig
Director: Toby Clarke
Performers: Sophie Craig, Sean McLevy, Andy Umerah
Composer / Sound Designer: Jack Edmonds
Designer / Set Maker: Sas Works
Lighting Designer: Pablo Fernandez Baz
Stage Manager: T J Roderick
Casting Director: Ceri Bedingfield
Artist Wellbeing Practitioner: Noelle Adams
Produced by: Maria Cuervo / Reece McMahon & Emily Beecher, The REcreate Agency
I Love You, Now What?
Sophie Craig / The REcreate Agency