No Love Songs

Kyle Falconer and Laura Wilde
Dundee Rep Theatre
Southwark Playhouse Elephant

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No Love Songs
No Love Songs
No Love Songs

It seems there's a new genre on the block, or at least to me, that is! The company behind No Love Songs at Southwark Playhouse Elephant describes the show as 'gig theatre' due to its combo of music and songs brilliantly woven among a rich and emotionally charged narrative.

This half gig, half theatre performance is inspired by the real-life experiences of Kyle Falconer from the Dundee based indie-rock band The View. All of the music comes from Falconer's second solo album No Love Songs for Laura. I have not heard the album, but here the words within the beautifully written tracks take centre stage. The music has been stripped back, leaving a raw and exposed vibe, which is very fitting for the entire performance, which is built around the emotions and thoughts of a young couple's burgeoning relationship.

No Love Songs is a two-hander starring John McLarnon and Anna Russell-Martin and tells the story of Jessie and Lana, a couple who are clearly in love but who are also forced to deal with some desperately challenging circumstances. This is a dark play that will not sit well with some, which explores the couple's journey through postnatal and antenatal depression and anxiety with the utmost honesty and truth. This is a no-holds-barred look at how these issues can cripple the strongest of people and the tightest of couples.

Both McLarnon and Russell-Martin navigate the dark, depressing tone of the show perfectly. The joy, heartbreak and despair they feel as part of the ups and downs of their relationship is believable and palpable within the stripped-back stage, furnished sparingly with storage boxes and a small instrumental corner from where Gavin Whitworth creates the limited backing music for much of the show.

With such a sparse set, Grant Anderson's lighting design is used with great success to navigate the story and assist the audience with the mood of each scene. He uses limited colour and at times a single spot to highlight Lana's darkest moments with chilling brilliance—and in complete contrast to the limited dusky, bright, colourful moments of joy and euphoria.

Having first opened at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, then the Dundee Rep Theatre in 2023, it is clear the No Love Songs cast and crew are a family, well connected and familiar with the show and each other. This confidence shines through, and the London stage and audiences are all the better for it.

I'm certain few will leave the show rolling with laughter or with a cheesy grin, but it will perhaps help you reflect and remember the power of theatre and music and its ability to provoke all types of emotions and reactions—and for that the team here has certainly been successful.

Reviewer: Thomas Magill

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