The dramatic rise and fall of a luxuriously rouched red velvet curtain separates three acts, three era and three living rooms. Perhaps this nostalgic nod at ‘retro’ theatre auditoria is also intended to acknowledge the very traditional, possibly even a little dated, feel of the structure and staging of Mike Bartlett’s Love Love Love?
The play introduces us to Kenneth as he participates in a historical first. It is 1967, the Eurovision Song Contest is being broadcast simultaneously in 26 countries and watched by four hundred million viewers. Kenneth enjoys the broadcast from the comfort of his brother’s sofa; he’s lodging in his flat during a summer break from University. When Henry enters the scene, unimpressed and distinctly unaffected by the momentous event taking place, the contrasting personalities and ‘politics’ of the two brothers are evident. Henry, though only five years older, is very much a part of the ‘old guard’, working hard to earn a living and resenting Kenneth, who at nineteen, enjoys a student grant as sizable as his father’s annual salary and sees himself as entitled to it; an investment in the country’s future. The differences do not stop here.
Henry tries to persuade Kenneth to make himself scarce for the evening so he can spend time alone with a new girlfriend but on hearing Henry’s description of the girl, he cannot resist a meeting and manipulates the situation so that he is present when she arrives. It is immediately obvious which of the two brothers has more in common with the nineteen year old middle class Oxford student, Sandra.
Act two and it’s 1990, this time the living room is a domestic setting, the family home of Kenneth and Sandra complete with their two children. Times have changed; Kenneth and Sandra seem to have come a long way since their free-living, free-loving student days. But the veneer of idyllic family life soon slips and we discover that much of the irresponsible ideology of their youth remains, with a troubling, if a little ‘over egged’, impact on their children.
Act three takes place in 2011 when the now seperated family are reunited in Kenneth’s post-divorce bachelor pad. Here the aftermath of their parental irresponsibility culminates in a showdown, a generational clash which cannot be resolved. Kenneth and Sandra should be older and wiser and perhaps show remorse for the fate that has befallen their children, but wrapped up in themselves they revert to rose-tinted type and re-discover each other to a Beatles soundtrack, oblivious to the reality they’ve never really faced up to.
Structure is stayed but Mike Bartlett’s observations are fresh, striking and pertinent, as are the characters and dialogue of the play. In the first act I am certain that older performers will be essential to portray the ageing characters in the acts that follow but I am pleased to find otherwise. Lisa Jackson’s portrayal of astutely written Sandra is delightfully audacious; a stand out performance.