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Review of Love Lies at the Hope Theatre

Love LiesThis is a series of five short plays of new writing, exploring the risks and lies in love in a running time of one hour. The playwrights are all women with a keen eye for the fallibility of both sexes in their love predicaments.

The small cast impresses, taking on very different roles in each play and exerting firm control of the material from the start. Humour is an important component throughout, a counterpoint to the disappointments of love displayed.

The location of the first piece, What Friends Are For by Mari Lloyd, is a Liverpool Hospital. A perfect setting for two telephone switchboard operators to describe in dry, Scouse wit, the tedium and narrowness of their lives as they imagine the possible benefits of an online pairing between a colleage with a wealthy American.

The second play, Catfish by Daphne Pena, is at times brilliantly funny. James Eyres as Ben gives some great lines as the son of the best friend of a concerned mother who has bribed him to have a relationship with her daughter, concerned about her virtual dating habits.

Half by Liz Mead is the third play. This is powerful in its writing of the emotions of a betrayed wife attempting to hang onto her dignity, movingly played by Lucy Aley-Parker, as she tries to find contentment. Her character’s vain, insignificant, puffed up husband, (well played by Neil Summerville), has somehow managed to persuade another woman at his office, with whom he is infatuated, to have an affair. Wearing his totem shirt and tie as a badge of supposed values, he chillingly informs his lonely wife she should not go to the office party, this year.

The fourth play, Lovefool, by Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson, is probably the one that is most disturbing. It concerns a commitment-phobic, separated father. Despite the plans he has made he lets his little girl down on her seventh birthday. Persuaded into doing this by his cynical girlfriend, who sees the child as her rival in love. This portrayal of a manipulative and damaged woman, played by Daphne Pena, is convincingly uncomfortable. Again, James Eyres is excellent. This time as a foolish and weak man, failing to grasp the consequences for his little girl of his own lack of moral compass. The clear message here is there are many ways to love, many ways in which to disappoint.

The last play, Reel Love by Mary Ann-Pashigan, takes the audience to California, that place imagined by the telephone operators as a place of escape at the beginning of the show. A Hollywood film producer is testing an actress for a part but is not as in control of this situation as he might hope. This is an enjoyable scenario but it proves a bit of a stretch for the audience to adjust to this new location at the end of the hour’s run, having also got used to being fixed fairly firmly somewhere in England.

The last line of this play does, however, describe a common bond between all five plays, “The edges ( of love) are frayed, don’t you see?”

Director, Rob Henderson, successfully meets with a cool eye the challenge of describing the different tonality of five set pieces in one hour. His decision to direct the cast to engage directly with the audience at times is most effective in creating involvement and intimacy in the playing space.

While some of the plays occasionally lose focus in terms of credibility, this is a well played and interesting production which does not fail to entertain.

3 Star Review

Review by Marian Kennedy

love lies
written by Liz Mead, Elizabeth Rutherford-Johnson, Mari Lloyd, Mary Ann Pashigian & Daphne Peña / directed by Rob Henderson

Five plays by five women about the perils and deceptions of that crazy little thing called love.

From the writers of the sold-out show “Snapshots” comes an all-new production running for 4 nights only on 17, 18, 24 & 25 April 2016.
Book tickets for the Hope Theatre
http://www.thehopetheatre.com/

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