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Love Talk at New Wimbledon Theatre Studio

The observations Adam (Will Charlton) and Lauren (Megan Cooper) make between them begin as reasoned, intelligent and intelligible, and this is one of those storylines that starts so blissfully it comes as no surprise whatsoever that, given the only way is down (to misquote the sort of song they might have had on their playlist), things take a darker turn. Then there’s Ethan (Chris Austin), whom Adam hates, partly because he is Lauren’s ex-partner, and partly because of Ethan’s sheer self-importance. Over the course of twelve scenes, some of which are quite concise, the highs and the lows of a long-term relationship are captured in a briskly paced production that brings a wide range of human emotions to life.

Love TalkIs the era of contemporary shows that flip back and forth between years and even decades over? This play is in forward chronological order (hurrah!), with complexity instead arising out of the (mostly) convincing details of the characters and their lives – we are even told the country of origin of a box of chocolate. In the end, none of them turn out to be likeable, but this ultimately doesn’t matter too much because so much dramatic tension arises out of problematic people. The alternative, in which everyone is always civil and reasonable, wouldn’t on the whole result in good theatre – and for this reason, there are far more dystopian plays out there than utopian ones.

Not that there isn’t any hope for anyone by the curtain call – there is, with the conclusion left open-ended. The set doesn’t change much throughout, with the rear garden setting retained from beginning to end, which makes scene changes (for want of a better phrase) very swift, even if by default. And while it is plausible for the characters to be wearing more or less the same clothes from month to month, and year to year, the longitudinal nature of the narrative needs to borne in mind when watching the show. There are gaps of weeks, months or even years between scenes, and it’s only clear from reading the list of scenes in the programme how long each gap is.

There’s some humour in the dialogue, sometimes resulting from mild disagreements, and occasionally from rather more explosive ones. A line about people in neighbouring gardens possibly overhearing conversations served as an excellent reminder that a back garden doesn’t provide the same kind of privacy as a living room. A large number of relatable contemporary issues come to the fore – it felt like the kitchen sink and then some had been thrown at this challenging narrative. I thought about listing a few examples but alas, it would prove too much of a spoiler to do so.

Suffice to say, life ain’t easy. But dissecting the storyline isn’t exactly difficult: there’s a lack of trust on Adam’s part, which leads Lauren to do things she wouldn’t have done otherwise, having adopted a ‘damned if I do, damned if I don’t’ approach. You only live once and all that. What isn’t said is sometimes just as damning as what is, with some of the most emotionally intense moments occurring when someone is at a literal loss for words in utter exasperation. At times it felt like almost every other love story with its ups and downs, but that doesn’t take away from it being a decent and worthwhile experience. And if you’re going, go early: there’s some decent pre-show music to enjoy.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

The play follows a couple where we see them meet for the first time at a party and in the ensuing time, enjoying their happiest moments and attempting to cope with their most difficult.

Set entirely in the garden of their home, Love Talk spans a ten-year period, punching in on the most poignant moments of its inhabitants’ relationship.

As they approach their fifth wedding anniversary, they ponder the next milestone in their relationship until untold secrets begin to surface and a face from the past reappears.

Love Talk is at Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre from Wednesday 26th April, 2023 to Saturday 29th April, 2023.

View all shows booking now at Studio at New Wimbledon Theatre.

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