Lovesong

Abi Morgan

Lyric Hammersmith

From 11 January 2012 to 04 February 2012

Review by Philip Fisher

Lovesong is a really beautiful, tender work that exemplifies the art of combining a good piece of writing by Abi Morgan with impeccable direction and choreography from Steven Hoggett and Scott James of Frantic Assembly.

Miss Morgan has written a portrait of love that starts out as two simple stories following a couple Bill and Maggie, viewed at stages of their lives over forty-odd years apart.

In the earliest sections of the play the couple, played by Edward Bennett and Leanne Rowe, are in their late twenties circa 1968. We follow their marriage through a period of transition and consolidation that lasts perhaps half a decade.

During this time, Bill buys a dental practice that they cannot afford and somewhere along the line, they relocate to "The Land of the Free", where they remain for a lifetime.

While they are very much in love, Bill's drinking and their inability to bear children begin to take their toll so that each seeks escape, though always rather ineffectually. All in all, this might be seen as a typically ordinary existence but is well drawn.

Today, the pair have reached their seventies and Maggie is suffering from a terminal illness. Now, Sam Cox and Siân Phillips take on the roles in a series of desperately poignant and immaculately acted scenes as the pair make their farewells and prepare for an end and a future - but only for him.

As in Richard Bean's Honeymoon Suite, not only are scenes alternated but bleed into each other so that the older pairing view their younger selves and vice versa.

On its own, this closely observed double story would be highly effective and very moving. However, Frantic Assembly takes it on to another plain with its iconoclastic and distinctive directing style.

Over and above their straight actor work, which cannot be faulted, the directors inject action, characteristic dance moves and often sensual movement. 

The evening is then pepped up by amusing tag-team appearances across a generation that are effected inter alia through a wardrobe, fridge and marital bed.

On this occasion, the creative team also makes the most of lush music and Ian William Galloway's dreamy projections.

The finished product is an unforgettable, elegiac drama that gets the Lyric (not to mention co-producers Frantic Assembly, The Drum in Plymouth and Chichester Festival Theatre) off to a storming start to 2012.