by Abi Morgan
directed by Steve Grist
Colne Dramatic Society
Lovesong is the story of one couple, told from two different points in their lives – as young lovers in their 20s and as worldly companions looking back on their relationship. Their past and present selves collide in this haunting and beautiful tale of togetherness.
It also highlights the strain inherent in a marriage in which a couple are desperate for children but are unable to conceive. Add to this strain the burden of being encumbered by debt at the beginning of their life together and you have a story of the ups and downs of relationships; the optimism of youth making way for the wisdom of experience.
I am always in awe of the way the Colne DS manage to create sets on a pocket handkerchief of a stage, no less so than on this occasion in which three settings were evident; the bedroom, the garden and the living room-cum-kitchen. John Mills’ set design was nothing short of miraculous and served to move the action seamlessly from scene to scene. The haunting music from ‘Sanctuary’ adds an extra ethereal dimension to the play and complements the overall story.
Abi Morgan, the playwright, is possibly better known as a television writer although her theatrical output has been prolific. Lovesong was first presented in 2011. The story is somewhat hazy in detail but we learn that the couple’s first leap of faith was moving to the United States, then buying a house somewhat off the beaten track, where Billy was to set up a dental practice. Very much against Billy’s will, Maggie gets a job at a library in order to earn enough money to keep themselves afloat. The strain of these conflicting elements in their marriage was enormous but, despite everything, their forty-odd years together was evidence of a love that transcended the stresses and strains that surrounded them.
The young Billy and Maggie, called William and Margaret for the sake of clarity, were played by Matt Whatley and Lauren Monk. I have not seen either player on stage before but their assured performances created, very well, the right atmosphere to be able to set the scenes for the unfolding years.
The older Billy and Maggie were played by two experienced and superb actors, Neil Tranmer and Vivien Thornber. Watching them, in their tender moments, in their confrontational moments, they were obviously a couple still very much in love with each other and relying on each other for the strength needed to meet Maggie’s impending illness. They reminisced over holidays in France when it was so hot outside they visited a cave complex and became extremely cold as they ventured deeper and deeper inside.
The scene in the kitchen about the loft clearance was gentle and tender, both with the younger couple, as they put mementos into the loft that the older couple were to clear later. Inappropriate birthday gifts provided lighter moments to savour and these cameos prevented the story from becoming too intense. Beautiful writing, beautifully played by four talented performers.
Steve Grist, the director really had to choreograph the movement on stage to make everything work, for example an older Maggie going into the wardrobe for a young Margaret to come out.
There were little humorous touches, too, as when Margaret, wearing one outfit, whilst holding another saying, “In this I look like my mother, in this I look like a tramp. Which should I wear?”
The scene with the iPod was classic comedy and rang so true to life.
I feel certain that no one will leave the theatre unmoved by the story. The ending was so well performed that it left the audience in tears, and yet is was strangely uplifting, too. This was a sign of excellent writing performed by superb actors.
This was a very rewarding night at the theatre watching a well-written play well presented.
Congratulations to everyone involved with the presentation, the properties, sound and lighting, and the staging.
Thank you for your very warm welcome.