Heralded as a baby-boomer generation versus the 30somethings generation showdown, award-winning Mike Bartlett’s vibrant new play Love Love Love opened in Plymouth prior to a national tour.
And the Drum Theatre Plymouth and Paines Plough production does not disappoint with compelling performances, cutting dialogue and a thought-provoking premise posing more questions than giving answers.
Focussing on three short periods of time in the life and times of 60s hedonists Kenneth and Sandra, we witness the rollercoaster ride of their relationship and the knock-on effect on their offspring.
Sharp observations of the foibles of youth (regardless of generation), of the nuances of relationships, and the influence of politics on ambition and achievement - this is an absorbing piece which does not lecture and does not always sit comfortably but nevertheless entertains.
Kenneth (National Theatre and RSC, and BBC Radio Carleton Hobbs Award shortlist’s John Heffernan) grows from immature Oxford undergrad, hungry to leap on the bandwagon of political change, to rat race drone to pensioner in sharp contrast to his mundane brother Henry (convincingly played by nabokov and RSC stalwart Simon Darwen) who represents the hardworking, ordinariness of post-war Britain.
The Brave New World promised by the Beatles, cannabis, university grants, free love and peace marches, is epitomised by the staunchly opinionated feminist Sandra – a gift of a character played to perfection at 19, 43 and 64 by the excellent Daniela Denby-Ashe (perhaps best known as Janey in My Family or Sarah Hill in Eastenders).
Rosie Wyatt (newly graduated but already having been shortlisted for the BBC Radio Carleton Hobbs Award and acclaimed in the one-man show Bunny in Edinburgh) and James Barrett (RSC, nabokov) play the young generation stymied by their larger-than-life parents and the changes wrought by the decisions of that generation.
Most convincing as youngsters, I did have some difficulty with accepting them as 30somethings - needing more visual reminders of their approaching middle age when their conduct is clearly firmly fixed in the self-centred, everyone-else-is-to-blame culture typical of teens.
Directed by James Grieve (co-Artistic Director of Paines Plough and formerly Associate Director of the Bush Theatre) on atmospheric prescriptive sets by Lucy Osbourne, as a message Love Love Love leaves some interesting questions in the air and races, breathlessly in the third act, through some debatable points with swift generational sideswipes that bear more examination in a different forum.
Perhaps trying to do too much from a general political and accountability point of view, this is still an entertaining and absorbing piece of theatre.