In the first act the private – a love affair, a rejection, the devastating break-up from a first love – comes to the fore during a public poetry reading, the gateway to Tom’s internal maelstrom. We’re introduced to the early incarnation of Sean Hart’s doting Tom, and James Murfitt’s playful Matt. Then comes the second, a monologue strongly delivered by a now vulnerable Tom, taking you through the eye of the break up. The third: a resolution of sorts. It is a rich and sometime poetic dissection of a spirit cleft jaggedly in two but, like Tom, is a little immature... occasionally gauche.
At its best Imogen Knight’s movement displays the raw power of a splintering couple and at its worst is ill-timed and excessively long, breaking the spell and leaving the talented cast open to derisive snorts from a bored audience. The Well and Badly Loved is also occasionally a bit hit and miss language-wise, with a motif of childhood that often detracts from the adult power of the relationship. It neither wholly explains, nor entirely permits Tom’s obsession. In fact, if anything, it rings a little hollow in the face of so much complexity elsewhere in the text.
Sean Hart is the undeniable star however, whose vulnerability and deft delivery makes the second act – a monologue delivered under a single light – by far the most enjoyable to watch. Imbuing Tom with necessary tenderness, he prevents his character from becoming a self-indulgent whiner, making it a wholly more watchable three acts. But whilst his Tom is a lover permanently stained by the experience of Matt, The Well and Badly Loved fails to leave a similar imprint on those who watch.
- Laura Tosney