REVIEW: LOVE?! (Old Red Lion Theatre) ★★★

Love?! A Catastrophic 21st Century Guide on Relationships’ is certainly one the longest titles for any play I have seen recently. The play itself, by Chloé Wipraechtiger, is short, unsatisfyingly so, and I would have liked more time to allow further character development, which could have better evolved the intertwined mini-playlets into a rounded piece. Despite this, the play is good, and there were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments for the audience in this new bitter-sweet comedy-drama.

The huge cast (by fringe standards) performed extraordinarily well, and made the entire production. For a comedy, teeming with extramarital affairs, ‘friends with benefits’, and relationship break-ups, there was a refreshing element of real drama; supplied most notably by George Verghis, as Leo – the lads’ lad (and rugby legend) with heart of gold – and his on-off girlfriend, Orla (Anna Montigue-Swan). The pair displayed a realistic close bond as their characters battled life’s ups and downs, which many couples will be able to understand and appreciate. However, tales of woe, abortion and refused proposals don’t make for great comedy and as if by magic, whenever needed, the mood is quickly restored by the fabulous Gio Palazzolo playing Jo. Jo is everyone’s favourite gay Italian flatmate; with a knowing look, a splash of sparkle and the passion of Bruno Tonioli. Jo’s stereotypical gay life (movie nights with girl-friends and looking fierce) takes an unexpected twist when he goes ‘straight for pay’ for the insatiable minx Emily (Lucy Hooper), a wealthy co-habitué with season ticket to the GUM clinic.

Wictor Koch, as hapless loser in life Tony, captures the heart of the audience, losing his Dad to cancer and his unrequited love for Vic (Chloé Wipraechtiger). The expression and emotion conveyed in Tony’s every movement, touch and speech has been meticulously crafted, in both direction (Dir: Wictor Koch) and performance.

This production features some very nice flashback sequences, artistically designed and directed to fit with the feel of the play while not detracting from the story being told. The cast overall, perform well, excepting a couple of stumbled lines and a misnamed character, which was remarkably recovered and hardly noticed.

As the flatmates’ personal relationships unravel and their lives inevitably begin to freefall, the play closes with a short and impassioned monologue from Vic. Moralising on the way in which people treat each other, their friends and partners, this speech was unexpected and seemed disjointed within the context of the rest of the play, which had up until then the potential for a fourth star.

Reviewed by Lee Knight



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