Both of these short plays, performed by the returning ATC, deal with a subject that has puzzled philosophers for millennia. From Plato to Descartes, Nietzsche to Lennon and McCartney. What is Love?
Sarah Kane’s Crave is haunted by the ghost of Samuel Beckett as four disparate characters speak jump-cut lines on love, lust, obsession and desperation. Like listening to half heard conversations on a train, you pick up on the stories of characters in snatches, and although there never seems to be a narrative, there are threads linking these lonely individuals together. The tone of the piece changes subtly from what appears to be the cries of the lovelorn to something darker and it’s beautifully underscored by the simple staging and straightforward, but powerful, use of lighting.
Illusions is a far more obviously accessible piece than Crave. Essentially a series of interlinked shaggy dog tales containing the same two couples, it’s a little like a storytelling circle with each performer taking a different piece of the narrative. With the quirky addition of the audience sitting on the stage, there’s an intimacy to the process which pulls you in. The stories themselves ask fundamental questions on the nature of love and whether honesty, reciprocity, sacrifice and denial are at the heart of what that particular four letter word means and if such a thing as true love even exists. Ivan Vyrypaev’s text, translated from the Russian by cast member Cazimir Liske, is whimsical, wise and avoids judgement, accepting that folly and failure are honest components of any relationship. If it has an agenda then Illusions comes out on the side of acceptance and compromise and perhaps that love – or at least the storybook version – is illusionary.
The cast for both pieces is the same: Cazimir Liske, Jack Tarlton, Derbhile Crotty, and making her Actor’s Touring Company debut, Rona Morison. Given the natures of the pieces it would be impossible to award individual plaudits, but director Ramin Gray should take great pride in bringing together a finely matched ensemble. There are no startling insights here into love and its mechanics. There’s nothing you probably haven’t felt or thought yourself. But this double bill does offer some pause to think about the subject and reflect upon your own relationships, and it’s difficult not to find yourself identifying with one or another of the characters.
Good theatre can either delve deep into the minutiae of a specific subject or, as here, examine a universal aspect of life through a different filter. Either way, at its best it should leave you with questions as well as answers; both these pieces certainly do that.
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