People who make a muddle of their own lives don’t do this in isolation. The fall-out affects, and even ruins, those who are closest to them. Take the hedonistic couple who are at the centre of Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love. Their theme tune is the Beatles number which gives the play its title, but its descant rings out as “self, self, self”.
Act one is set in 1967, act two in 1990 and the third act takes place in the present year. The catalyst for all that happens is staid, hard-working Henry, who fancies Sandra but loses her fairly swiftly to his layabout student brother Kenneth. Fast forward a couple of decades and the irresponsible pair are, quite happily, wrecking their own marriage while ignoring what effect this might have on their children.
By the time we are in the foothills of tour own time, this wilful lack of any sort of parental (or, for that matter, any) responsibility has managed to exclude not just the now grown-up children but their current partners. They are extremely well off in financial terms and see no reason to dilute any of that wealth beyond fitness programmes, holidays, home improvements and the occasional course of Botox.
Bartlett’s dialogue is sheer sharpened steel and James Grieve’s direction overlaps the exchanges with the same merciless glitter. If only there had been some humanity to alieviate all this hardness. You can’t fault the performances – Lisa Jackson dominates as long-legged, wine-swilling Sandra with Ben Addis matching her as Kenneth, a man who has learnt how to skim the cream from the surface of other people’s lives.
There’s a dangerous edge to James Barrett as Jamie, the son whose is probably somewhere on the autistic scale, if anyone at home or school had ever bothered to notice. And Rosie Wyatt is extremely moving as the daughter Rose, a good violinist but all-too aware that she’ll never be a great one. Simon Darwen has only the first act in which to make a mark, but Henry’s offstage presence is a shadow on all that follows. Lucy Osborne has provided three sets which are performers in their own right.