Can you control who you fall in love with? Modern Love at the Etcetera Theatre explores the lives of two sets of best friends, the ladies, Ella (Hanako Footman) and Olivia (Clea Martin), and the guys, Harry (Abe Buckoke) and Jonah (Charles Bateman). Their lives swiftly become complicated as each of them falls for the beautiful and well-meaning Ella. As their web of emotions is woven, the nature of love and consent comes under fire.
The production is touted as “hybrid”, on account of a cinematic component. Scenes of the characters living their Oxford lives are played against the minimalistic set, creating a very aesthetic experience. Csaba Kondor is to be commended on the succulent, raw quality of the cinematography in the film element of the play. It is absolutely a delight to watch, the colours playing out beautifully over the actors on stage.
Despite the truly striking film component – tying together a subtle and appealing colour palette of the staging overall – there are certainly moments in which the integration doesn’t quite pay off. The actors occasionally respond to the screen, but this is not consistent – a more consistent approach to the overall integration of the “hybrid” film element would have been more successful. I wasn’t too concerned by this though, due to the sheer force of beauty emanating from the screen – for me, the complexity of the plot is augmented by the screen, even if they occasionally feel parallel (rather than joined).
Emily Warren has written a sharp and insightful play, with lots of sparkling, witty moments dotted throughout. Performances are generally solid, despite some occasionally odd miming. Regardless, there is a lot to be treasured here. My only concern with Modern Love is the stereotypical way in which it plays into ideas about female friendship. The girls, when pictured together, do a lot of dancing around and screaming, before being plunged into a very ‘catty’ game of deception and control. I, for one, would like to see fewer stories in which women are each other’s vice. Despite this, the relationships portrayed are earnest and interesting, and the actors are each given a moment to shine – their talent and subtlety doing much to ground this production.
In all, Warren is to be congratulated for what is a very well-designed, well-executed play. Provoking as many questions as it answers, Modern Love is a valiant attempt to unpick the nature of modern relationships amongst a group of young people. It’s a subject that fascinated the audience members across the age spectrum and is certainly a memorable visual experience.
Review by Christina Calgaro
Spanning one term at Oxford University, Modern Love follows the story of two sets of best friends – Olivia and Ella, Harry and Jonah – whose lives collide when they all fall for Ella. What follows is a romantic game of musical chairs that explores mental illness, sexual consent and love in all its forms. This hybrid production will blend film and theatre to create a new and unique visual experience.
This ambitious and innovative piece will be directed by the writer herself, Emily Warren and produced by Annabelle Rich – Rich Creative. This is a chance to see the full production following its research and development period as part of the Pleasance Theatre’s Litmus Fest.
Rich Creative is run by emerging artists Annabelle Rich, Emily Warren and Francesca Tennant, alumni of Arden School of Theatre, University of Oxford and Central School of Ballet. The three combine their passion and dedication to create new and innovative work that will engage, inspire and connect with audiences on a personal level as a way of raising awareness about common issues within society.
18th October 2016 – 22nd October 2016 at 7:00pm