Loving Dick (Manchester)

The Lass O’Gowrie

A platonic friendship enables Lana (Rose van Leyenhorst) and Connor (John Mulleady) to discuss the problems that arise in their love lives. Connor is searching for a relationship of any kind. Lana has a lover who is sexually satisfactory but whose strange attitude makes her wonder whether it is worth questioning the situation or just letting it continue. To maintain discretion she nicknames her lover ‘Dick’.

Loving Dick (created by van Leyenhorst and Mulleady) is a stylish and very funny show and is all the more impressive for being the first play from new company Leading Van Productions. Director Megan Marie Griffith sets a relaxed atmosphere. Props are handed out to the audience who are encouraged to offer opinions on the subjects under discussion as if chatting in a pub. In a nice touch the props are retrieved at the conclusion as if to suggest packing up belongings at the end of a friendship.

The cast (van Leyenhorst and Mulleady are joined by Daniel Thorn) follow the example of the director with understated natural performances that make the characters both appealing and believable.

The creators steer clear of the increasingly clichéd concept of a compulsive sexual relationship but struggle to establish a completely cohesive play. It works best as a series of witty set pieces. While the characters are believable they lack the dramatic nature to push the play along.

Connor is passive, shaping his behaviour around the professional requirements of his job and the puzzling needs of his friend. His own desires are left vague. Lana gives the impression that she knows what she wants but a paucity of information makes it hard to see how her relationship with Dick is fulfilling.

Ultimately the creators use quotes from a scientific study to suggest the determining factor may be the difference between sex and love, which may be true, but it isn’t a wholly satisfactory explanation.

Loving Dick is an enjoyable play, which has not yet achieved its full potential but is an impressive first production from a very welcome new company.

– Dave Cunningham