Love vs Hate**** (Tristan Bates Theatre, 15 April 2013)

Posted: April 15, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews:

The title implies a battle between contrasting emotions and the structure of he evening implies a battle of the sexes. In fact, what we see is two one-act plays, both under one hour; the first about hate is written, directed and performed entirely by women; the second about love is written, directed and performed entirely by men. These are stand alone pieces but, if the umbrella title is primarily a marketing device, it also provokes thought as to how love and hate are two sides of the same coin, each fundamental to understanding the human condition. The evening begins with the hate play, entitled Wounds, written by Chantelle Dusette and directed by Zoe Ford. It depicts three generations of a dysfunctional family, headed by the matriarch Grace, the widow of a philandering husband and now an overbearing mother and grandmother. Playing her, Ellie Dickins shows how she struggles to maintain her own vision of dignity but remains insensitive to the concerns of her family. Playing the daughters, Collette Cooper shows resilience and defiance as a recovering drug addict and Terri Dwyer is vulnerable yet determined when her character leaves an abusive marriage and then enters a lesbian relationship. All these characters are wounded by their experiences and, most pointedly, by themselves and the play demonstrates how they use their wounds as weapons against each other with tragic consequences. Set entirely in the family living room and with deft shifts backwards and forwards in time, this is largely a conversation piece, with minimal movement on stage and it is a gripping and convincing drama. In the second half, we see the love play, entitled To The End Of Love, written by Edwin Preece and directed by Sean Turner. It begins with Pink Floyd music being played at the funeral service for a young lady named Stella, after which it becomes instantly clear that the style will more pacy and aggressive, contrasting starkly with the first play. The dialogue is snappy and infused with humour, the scenery is adaptable and there is constant movement by the six actors, all of whom are on stage throughout. Stella has died of cancer and we see her Father (Michael Yale) and three lovers from various times in her life (Darcy Vanhinsbergh, John Pickard and Stevie Raine) enacting scenes from the past and outpouring their emotions to a counsellor. The most moving performance is given by Niall Phillips as her devoted brother who had assumed the role of her protector, both in life and in death. What these characters are expressing is not grief but love which, although not completely fulfilled, is pure in its nature. The writing shows a clear understanding of the pain, regret and even guilt associated with such a loss and it is made all the more effective by its concision. Lonesome Schoolboy Productions takes credit for bringing these two new works to the stage. If it was a real contest, the prize would go to love by a narrow margin, but there are no losers as this proves to be an outstanding showcase for emerging talents.

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