Review Round-up: Do critics Love Churchill’s new play?
By Editorial Staff
• 17 Sep 2012
• West End
After six years Caryl Churchill is back with a new play. Love and Information is a ‘fast-moving kaleidoscope’ featuring fifty scenes and over a hundred characters.
It explores the disorientation we experience trying to process the endless data that is constantly pumped out at us in the information age; our thirst for knowledge about the world has resulted in a difficulty to express our emotional intelligence.
Directed by James MacDonald, Love and Information runs at the Court until 13 October.
I’m not quite sure how it happens, but every time Caryl Churchill writes a play she breaks the mould. In some ways, Love and Information is a sketch show. In others, it's a detonating minefield of suggestion and pessimism…it's a playground of mini-plays, dazzlingly exposed on Miriam Buether's unadorned stage, lit by Peter Mumford, and directed with a merciless wryness by James Macdonald…These are word games of the highest order, ellipitical, yes, but not puzzling, and immediately comprehensible in the theatre… Observation leaks into vigilance, spying, censorship. Human life is mysterious but we know too much about each other and no-one is safe. You come away feeling down-hearted and anxious. Even actors have been deprived of their security blankets, characters to latch on to for a while before dissolving in the stew once more.
...What is extraordinary about Churchill is her capacity as a dramatist to go on reinventing the wheel... on this occasion she has come up with something that feels like an intimate revue written by Wittgenstein...Churchill's play, in short, is a humanist document that, in Macdonald's dazzling production, makes vivid use of theatre's technical resources. Miriam Buether's white-walled chamber set which opens and closes like a camera shutter, Christopher Shutt's variegated sound design and Laura Draper's stage management ensure that one scene follows another with lightning speed... Each spectator will have a different vision of what this defiantly nonlinear show is really about. For me, Churchill suggests, with compassionate urgency, that our insatiable appetite for knowledge needs to be informed by our capacity for love.
...the thought-experiments of Wittgenstein spring to mind when watching Caryl Churchill's uneven but highly stimulating new revue of a play....What is it to know something? Is it better know things or not to know things?...Churchill airs these questions in a swift-footed, witty, sometimes haunting, show that is itself a calculated and droll example of information-overload. Breathtakingly well-directed by James Macdonald, it unfolds in fifty-seven black-out sketches in which a superlatively versatile sixteen-strong cast play over a hundred non-recurring characters...Performed on Miriam Buether's clinical white-cube set, each piece has a slightly hallucinatory distinctness. The text is bare of stage directions, so it is Macdonald who has imaginatively fleshed out the contexts...“Knowledge comes but wisdom stays,” wrote Tennyson. Dramatising a world where we have faster and faster access to more and more data but can lose our grip on the human meaning, Churchill has spiritedly updated that maxim.
Caryl Churchill’s first new full-length play in six years... feels bright and strange, while preserving plenty of her work’s familiar traits: a sense of mischief that’s human rather than merely foxy, an interest in the textures of ordinary speech, and a desire to probe ethical entanglements and lay bare the nature of power…The scenes are clipped and elliptical. Some are funny, others bleak, and most are cryptic... James Macdonald’s production... succeeds in making even the briefest of Churchill’s sketches feel fully inhabited. All (16 actors) demonstrate their versatility but the standouts are Laura Elphinstone, John Heffernan, Sarah Woodward and Rhashan Stone... For all its ingenuity and the crispness of Macdonald’s interpretation, it doesn’t afford any great revelations, and the vividness it creates is ephemeral.
Churchill has once again come up with a work that takes its audience by surprise.... It’s the dramatic equivalent of going through countless emails, some interesting, some touching, some funny, some alarming, and many downright dull... Indeed I find myself haunted by the suspicion that Caryl Churchill is one of those writers who jots down fragments of dialogue in a notebook for possible future use and has now simply decided to chuck all these random scraps into one play.... There is no doubt, however, that James Macdonald directs a dazzlingly slick and sharp production. Scene follows scene with amazing speed, each punctuated by a brief black-out. Designer Miriam Buether establishes locations with minimalist panache and the outstanding acting company, ranging from youngsters to oldies bring their sketchily drawn characters to vivid, persuasive life. It’s just a shame that one leaves the show with the slightly sick feeling of having spent an evening gorging on canapés.
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