FRINGE REVIEW – Love, St John’s Church

*****
Despite having won awards, Rough Winds’ Love does not manage to grip and entertain fully. The script is mostly clever in its use of Shakespeare’s sonnets, though occasionally confusing (why use one all about the difference in age between lovers, which makes no sense, just because it has some reference to lying?), but the production shows that more than fine words set in a narrative structure is needed to deliver dramatic satisfaction.
Love did tell a clear relationship story about a man and a woman, with their joys and betrayals. Shakespeare’s sonnets were sometimes beautifully apt, particularly good use being made of “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” (Sonnet 130), on waking with another after a wild night (a touch of those beer goggles maybe?), and of Sonnet 10’s lines which include “Make thee another self” – here used to indicate becoming a better person, the one that he could be. The sharing of sonnets also tended to work well, adding dynamic energy that was somewhat missing elsewhere. Such energy, a push through the story arc which might build, was partly lacking due to the episodic nature of the script and its direction.
The actor showed flashes of connected feeling in a few states – self-loathing, some humorous moments and occasionally tenderness (as in Sonnet 141 “In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes”), but too much flat vocal delivery underlined a lack of variation in the performance. The actress faired better, her connection to the feeling behind the use of these sonnets generally stronger due to an ability to express herself more fully. This meant being able sometimes to cover up a bit when a sonnet‘s connection to the relationship was not particularly clear, and her “Such civil war is in my love and hate” from Sonnet 35 was a moment of genuinely moving performance. There were times for both, though, where the playing of a general feeling associated with the relationship washed out the specifics of Shakespeare’s lines and the physical embodiment of his words was not really strong enough.
The staging is basic – nothing remarkable in fringe time, particularly when the performance occurs in a church hall serving as a tea room – and the rostra which form the stage were rather noisy at times. There was no special lighting but good use was made of music, apt songs recurring with strong connected meaning. Changes in costume – modern clothes in black, grey and red – helped to shape the passing of time and the occasional use of props (books, mobiles) illustrated well the use of the sonnets within the relationship story.
Overall, the feeling created by Love was one of a basic tale with an interesting idea for manner of telling (use of the sonnets) which would really benefit from a less repetitious flow to the structure of the play and more embodiment of the particulars of Shakespeare’s lines.
10 – 21 August (not 15, 16, 20), various times (duration: 1hr) @ St John’s Church
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