Digital theatre review: Lovesong
Ivan Radford | On 30, Jul 2020Reading time: 2 mins
Growing old is something that intrigues and intimates everyone, from the haunting thought of losing oneself or being forgotten by others to the worry that, even if you do find someone to share your life with, you might wind up with nothing to say to each other. Abi Morgan (Shame, Suffragette, The Iron Lady) dissects all of those human concerns carefully in Lovesong, an ode to love, nostalgia, commitment and connection.
She does so through the cosy haze of memory and and the fog of midlife crisis. She introduces us to William and Margaret in their later years, as Billy and Maggie face Maggie’s final weeks. They’ve had decades together and, as they brace themselves for what may lie ahead, they recall their younger selves – and, with barely a whisper, they appear on stage as well.
Siân Phillips and Sam Cox are wonderful as the older couple, capable of wistful pathos, poignant regret and moving loyalty, balanced with bitter anger that erupts in tirades at the frustration of their situation. They’re complemented beautifully by Leanne Rowe and Edward Bennett as the youthful couple, who don’t know that they’re going to go on not to have children, despite wanting them. Bennett, who stormed to stage fame when he stepped in as David Tennant’s understudy for Hamlet, is superb as the brooding, naive newlywed, and his chemistry with Rowe paves the way for the pained bond between Phillips and Cox.
The most striking moments, though, are when those connections stretch across the generations; Morgan’s script runs the two timelines together into a tangled web, with dialogue hopping from one age to another, objects passing between years, and actions echoing through time.
Frantic Assembly’s artistic directors Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett choreograph that intertwining interaction with an intimacy that doesn’t need words, as the past and present – or the present and future – dance around, with and into each other. It’s a waltz of joys and regrets, of grief and growing affection, when the act of touching someone else can be a supportive, embracing gesture that says everything. This elegantly woven pas de deux is accompanied by graceful video designs from William Galloway, which see notes from history sweep away like birds on the wind. It’s a fleeting, immersive portrait of love through bad and good, one that doesn’t always have the substance to back up its style and themes, but rings with Morgan’s trademark ear for human truths nonetheless.
Lovesong is available to watch on Digital Theatre as part of a £9.99 monthly subscription – or to rent from £7.99.