Thursday, 9 March 2017

theatre review: a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun)

debbie tucker green is one of the few playwrights who seems to get away with directing the premiere productions of her own work. this may be because, despite a poetic quality they all share, each of her plays has a very distinct feel, and the way they're staged is often integral to that. take her latest, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), which marks itself out as doing things differently as soon as you walk into the royal court upstairs: merle hensel's set design is like an inverted thrust staging, with the five actors on a raised stage that runs around three of the walls, while the audience sits in the middle on stools, turning to watch the action. sometimes the actors perform together, others they stand across the room from each other, delivering their lives over the audience's heads. and that's a very on-theme metaphor for a play about the way love can alternately attract and repel people.

described as being about three couples, the largest chunk of the play follows a (lashana lynch) and b (gershwyn eustache jnr,) their marriage told slightly out of sequence as a number of problems put a strain on it, but they seem to hold onto enough affection for each other to make it work.


the middle story is a single long scene as man (gary beadle) and woman (meera syal) bicker affectionately in the wake of something she thinks he should apologise for; his inability to do so evidently means their relationship can go no further, because by the end we see man with younger woman (shvorne marks,) with whom he's evidently been for some time, but whose family still haven't really accepted the age gap in their relationship. the unconventional staging and generic costumes mean we're not given too many clues about the time frame of the stories or how the characters might fit together, allowing us to piece that together over the course of the evening.


as someone who's seen too many overlong plays one thing i always like about tucker green is how succinct she is - never one to waste a word or outstay her welcome, and stylistically one element a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun) looks at is how little exposition an audience actually needs to understand a story. we're thrown into elliptical conversations that usually seem to have been prompted by an argument we don't know the details of, but even if we don't find out the specifics, the quality of the writing and acting means we soon feel like we understand the characters and where they stand with each other.


the play is a nice balancing act between the lyrical and the real, feeling even more like a stage poem than some of the playwright's earlier work. and it makes its point well, love as we see it here does fit perfectly with its dictionary definition while also being a lot more complicated than that.

a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun) by debbie tucker green is booking until the 1st of april at the royal court's jerwood theatre upstairs (returns and day seats only.)

running time: 1 hour 20 minutes including interval.

photo credit: stephen cummiskey.

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