The Well and Badly Loved is a physical theatre ‘trilogy’ depicting “a queer extravaganza of love and loss”. Written and directed by Risking Enchantment’s Ben Webb, this is one exploration of love and loss that slips uneasily between quietly heartbreaking and overly melodramatic.
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.