Reviewed by Frances Revel
Misery loves company. I’d never fully understood that phrase, but after my Monday night at the Tristan Bates theatre watching Love vs Hate I get exactly what it means.
The concept was fun, and interesting. Two plays. One about love (by men) and one about hate (by women). So you would hope in some way that the inevitable darkness of the latter subject matter would be softened by the aspirational light of the first. Not to be.
Wounds was a bleak outlook on the relationships between a family of women. Not your average family, but a deeply fraught and disturbed group with drug addiction, domestic violence, adultery and betrayal wracking their lives. Topped off with a suicide. There was no light at the end of that tunnel.
Storyline aside, one strong positive to be mentioned was the quality of acting by the entire cast, with particularly touching performances by the put-upon matriarch (Grace, played by Ellie Dickins) and her drug addled daughter (Annabel, played by Collette Cooper).
For those who like their theatre real and chock full of grit, Wounds would appeal.
Cue the interval, and a sigh of relief that at last the pain must be over, and our second half be filled with love and laughter. Well, not quite.
Filing back into the cosy auditorium, the first thing we were faced with was a funeral procession (momentarily distracted by the ingenious use of two church pews as a coffin – and later a door frame, therapists couch and bar).
The End of Love had a different feel entirely to Wounds; with more pace, dynamism and physical theatre to draw its audience in. The piece documented the different male players in the life of a dead woman, from her brother and father to previous boyfriends and lovers. The cast worked strongly together, and believably – with John Pickard (yes, Tony’s little brother in Hollyoaks!) a particularly engaging former teacher/lover of the deceased.
But as the narrative was framed by a funeral, we knew this was not to be a happy ending. To me, the final elements of Stella’s life (and I don’t want to give away too much) felt drawn out and overplayed. Yes, this was to be the crux of the story, but for me it lost some impact in the length of time it took the script to get to the point. For me, it lacked the shock factor and as a result even this heavy weeper managed to hold back the tears.
For my friend and I, the material was just too dark for a Monday night, and something that could only be solved by a cheeky milkshake and fries post-show. Perhaps Lonesome Schoolboy Productions could consider Friendship in place of Love or Hate for their next piece? It would be sweeter, and a lot easier to digest.