REVIEW: LOVE STEALS US FROM LONELINESS (Camden People’s Theatre) ★★★★
Camden People’s Theatre hosts the London premiere of Love Steals Us From Loneliness, an early work by acclaimed Welsh playwright Gary Owen. The play is produced by Chippy Lane Productions; the company aims to promote Welsh writing and Welsh talent to audiences beyond Wales.
The play is set in Owen’s home town of Bridgend in South Wales. This is a tale of teenagers but not of the much publicised suicides in the area in 2007 and 2008. Teenagers make bad choices; ninety nine times in a hundred they get away with it. This is the one in a hundred.
The first act is one drunken, expletive-ridden conversation between Scott and Catrin; seventeen years old, in a graveyard having left a Halloween party. Catrin has argued with her unseen boyfriend Lee and his friend Scott has come to check up on her.
In act two we meet Lee’s mother and sister, Mags and Becky who, along with Catrin and Scott piece together for the audience the events that happened later that evening and how it changed all their lives forever. “Let’s all wave goodbye to normal” says Mags.
The talented Welsh cast bring the characters to life. Evelyn Campbell plays Catrin, switching from “sexy witch” in act one to a grown woman with a dark secret in act two. Rhys Warrington as Scott becomes our main narrator in act two, pulling together the words of the others to help us put together the events of the fateful evening. The actors address the audience directly and sometimes each other, in between karaoke performances of teenage anthems.
Emma –Jane Goodwin as Mags and Rebecca Jade Hammond as Becky play a convincing mother and daughter, united and yet divided as they try to come to terms with their loss. Goodwin’s presentation of a Mags’s grief is very touching. Hammond is especially affecting as Becky, wanting to support her mother yet frustrated and confused by her behaviour.
Andrew David appears later in act two as Catrin’s new boyfriend, Mikey, his knowing nods to the audience providing some comic relief.
In Gary Owen’s words, “there’s something very simple about someone standing on a stage telling you a story”. This is a play full of local voices and references including an explanation of the difference between a townie and a valley commando. Beneath this, it is a story of love, loss and grief and the ripples that one bad decision can send through the years.
Reviewed by Rhiannon Evans
LOVE STEALS US FROM LONELINESS plays at Camden People’s Theatre until 31 July 2016