Joe Penhall’s Love and Understanding, whilst lacking the cerebral power of his most acclaimed play Blue/Orange, is nevertheless well worth a look. Sometimes overly verbose, it tells the far from unique but still saddening story of a strained relationship ruined by the arrival of an old school friend.
The three-strong cast in Blind Pig's production certainly hold their own and show admirable rhythm speaking what is at times a deeply dense text. Natalie Lesser gives the strongest performance of the evening, playing the idealist Rachel (who seems to have the most grasp on reality) with subtlety and honesty throughout. Joseph Wilkins as Neal, Rachel's pedantic other half, also does good work, deftly handling the second act transition from worrier to free agent.
Dan Coffey as the good-for-nothing school friend Richie captures the sense of the character with his relaxed yet somehow aggressive ownership of the stage. His speech about his grandfathers, a key moment in the play, lacks a certain sincerity but overall his presentation of this strange character is believable.
The score by Mark Limbic, written especially for the show, is beautiful and captures the mood of the piece. On the design front, the stage usage is effective and versatile - one space being used as flat, hospital, pub and riverside all in one.
This is an enjoyable, often challenging evening and credit must go to the company for giving this often difficult play an airing; they lend nuance and truth to a story so often told because it is so often lived.
- Laura Norman