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Love Me Do (Watford)

It's not just the past which is another country. That's made clear in the new Marks-Gran bitter-sweet comedy "Love Me Do".

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sara Topham, Hugo Bolton, Rosie Holden & Peter Clements
© MAX LACOME MAXLACOME.COM

We're in Kansas and in London. It all seems straightforward – a devoted wife and mother, who just happens to be called Dorothy, has been invited to the wedding of an old friend. That happens to be in London, but husband Richard wants her to take the chance.

Dorothy is a small-town girl, and it's not just the size, noise and fluid social structure of London which disorientates her. Lindsay has changed with her new circumstances (her husband's parents are titled) and the Cuban missile crisis – that "who blinks first; stand-off between Khrushchev's Soviet Union and Kennedy's USA – gathers momentum.

At the wedding, she meets Shack. He's r attached to the US embassy with a military past which we come to suspect includes more than its fair share of tragedy. All this is well hidden behind a joker's mask – tag-lines from films, snatches of songs and a general air of what-the-hell? included.

Directors Brigid Larmour and Shona Morris emphasis the many layers of this apparently simple story through stylised movement with balletic elements, a very good soundscape (James Frewer) and Ruari Murchison's set which gives us crumbling, smoke-blackened walls, open steps and two acting levels. It's all deliberately anti-realistic, but never obscures our interest in just how the personal relationships – never mind about the high politics – will play out.

Sara Topham's Dorothy is completely credible as the woman out of her comfort zone but slowly realising that one can acquire a taste for living dangerously. She's well matched by Robert Curtis as Shack, a man who has leant more from his own experiences than he is perhaps willing to admit. Even to himself.

At least nine other parts, with a couple of incidental characters thrown in for good measure, are shared out between the excellent Rosie Holden (whose Lindsay is nicely differentiated from her Candice), Hugo Bolton (a moving Richard, left at home caring for the children) and Peter Clements (who has some of the nasties as well as the funnies).

Love Me Do runs at the Palace Theatre, Watford until 18 October.