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No Love Songs – Traverse Theatre – Edinburgh Fringe

I successfully predicted that given the euphoria and positivity with which the relationship between Lana (Dawn Sievewright) and Jessie (John McLarnon) started, things were going to go downhill at some point. I hadn’t even read up about this show beforehand, going to see it purely through a combination of a friend’s recommendation and me finding a slot in my Edinburgh Fringe calendar that worked out. But it was clear there was simply no way the sheer joyfulness was going to last. I was not, however, prepared for the onslaught of strong emotions that gushed forth from both characters, but particularly from Lana, who suffers from an acute case of postnatal depression.

No Love Songs image by Raymond Davies (John McLarnon & Dawn Sievewright).
No Love Songs image by Raymond Davies (John McLarnon & Dawn Sievewright).

The show begins in Dundee in summer, which Lana asserts is a contradiction in terms. Before long, as you’ve figured out, a chat up from Jessie turns into a date, which turns into a relationship, which turns into them moving in together, which turns into them becoming parents. Love might well conquer all but there are still financial considerations, such that when the opportunity arises for Jessie to tour the United States with his band for a couple of months, she agrees immediately, despite being very much needed at home.

Jessie being a musician introduces an element of actor-musicianship into the show, while Sievewright’s Lana has considerably powerful singing voice. But just as extraordinary is the actor’s ability to demonstrate Lana’s vulnerability, at one point crying very naturalistically, quietly sobbing instead of loudly wailing. It’s an almighty struggle, and the pair try to keep their flame alive – Jessie isn’t the stereotypical view of a man looking out primarily for himself. He is palpably making an effort but with Lana being so unsure of herself, it’s not easy.

For people like me, who for patently obvious anatomical reasons, do not and will not have first-hand experience of postnatal depression, the show was a revelation. It’s a curious choice of subject matter for gig theatre, but it works. It’s one of those productions that one could deeply analyse and suggest areas for improvement (I don’t, for instance, remember a single lyric or tune from the show), but those seem almost superfluous because the show has so much passion and energy. A very worthwhile experience, it’s a big-hearted beast of a show that deserves to be seen by many more audiences.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Inspired by the real-life experiences of Laura and Kyle, the story follows two new parents grappling with the challenges of parenthood and the weight of postnatal depression. Through a powerful blend of music, tears, and laughter, the audience is taken on a heartfelt journey as they navigate the ups and downs of their new life together.

Songs taken from Kyle’s hit second solo album are reimagined live on stage in this new and urgent musical, capturing the essence of love, parenthood, and the struggles that come with it.

No Love Songs is part of the Made in Scotland Showcase 2023.

From an original idea by Kyle Falconer and Laura Wilde. Book by Laura Wilde and Johnny McKnight. Directed by Andrew Panton and Tashi Gore

Thursday 3rd – Sunday 27th August 2023

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