In London, we are used to Icelandic company Vesturport creating athletically challenging pieces such as Metamorphosis and its acrobatic Romeo And Juliet. Love is something quite different.
Set in a retirement home, there is not as much of the high-flying, wall-climbing action that we have come to expect. This might have something to do with the fact that most of the cast are well past the age when they could somersault across the stage; these days they are more likely to eat a flapjack than do a backflip.
There is more than a touch of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest about the story. The home is presided over by a young nurse who, though no tyrant, is not the most sympathetic of medical professionals. The arrival of new resident Margaret sets the heart of fellow home-dweller Neville aflutter, and the kindling of new love rejuvenates a youthfulness in both of the pensioners, leading to a runaway night on the town.
It is not just the new lovers who are youthfully exuberant. The tale is punctuated with snippets of songs that have rarely been heard coming from such ‘experienced’ mouths (barring Sympathy For The Devil which, of course, has). The Verve, Michael Jackson, Bon Jovi, Bonnie Tyler, Scissor Sisters and Guns And Roses are among the musicians to have their songs reinvented in a way that imbues them with a new affecting reality and their singers – which includes a choir drawn from the local community – a delightful sense of youth.
While the first night audience giggled at some of the song placements, recognising lyrics half way through lines – and there is a lot of self-referential humour – the play’s core is riddled with emotion that should tug on the hardest heartstrings.
Aging, and the ailments that so often tragically accompany it, is an emotive topic. Dudley Sutton delivers a dramatically still performance as Alzheimer’s sufferer Thomas. Maria Charles wears the scars of life’s betrayal like a shawl of grief, while Jeffry Wickham’s Peter yearns only for forgiveness. As the central pair, Anna Calder-Marshall and Julian Curry prove that love is not only for the young, but that older lovers have to overcome much more in search of happiness.
Using the community choir may have led to a production which is a little rough around the edges, with the occasional lyric lost or beat missed, but it is just possible that the imperfection makes the whole show a touch more endearing. Maybe I am just being sentimental, but that is what Love does to me.