Magazine article Variety

Love and Information

Magazine article Variety

Love and Information

Article excerpt

LEGIT

Love and Information

Royal Court Theater. London; 386 seats; £28 ($45) top

Is "Love and Information" the funniest and sharpest sketch show in town or theater's most audacious enquiry into the nature of how we perceive and navigate our way through the world? Well ... both. Aside from the sheer verve and pace of James Macdonald's scintillating production, what makes Caryl Churchill's latest play so exhilarating is the way she makes audiences complicit in its undoubted success.

Peter Mumford's bright light snaps up on an unnamed couple revealed in a pristine, graph-paperlike white box, one of whom (Amit Shah) is begging the other (Nikki Amuka-Bird) to reveal a secret. She's intent on withholding it, and the tension between them is immediately gripping. Despite his amusing entreaties for her to spill the beans, she stands firm, but then caves in, whispering into his ear. He is stunned and, barely one minute into the play, terrified: "Now what?" he cries, to be greeted by an instant blackout.

Seconds later, the lights are back up with a completely different couple in a wholly different situation in the same white box. And that's the format for the entire play. Selfconscious as that might sound, it's exactly like watching a quick-paced comedy sketch show. Presented with fresh characters and situations one after another - Macdonald's 16 actors play 100 characters in 58 fleet scenes - audiences get better and better at playing detective, grabbing cunningly planted clues in the form of snippets of often laugh-out-loud dialogue and vividly presented relationships.

Solving the puzzle as to who, where and what is happening in each snapshot scene, several lasting barely 30 seconds, is part of the fun Sometimes it's Laura Hopkins' expressive costumes that tell you everything you need to know, as in Amanda Drew's sudden appearance in a ludicrously fuchsia ball gown with her dancing partner. At other times, audiences are clued-in by Christopher Shutt's immediately evocative sound design, which cunningly ushers in each scene and sets up expectations or locations via found and created sounds and aural atmospheres.

Yet for all the droll comedy of the juxtapositions in this kaleidoscope of contemporary duos - friends, enemies, lovers, strangers, patients, colleagues, children, parents - Churchill's cumulative vision is often bleak. She paints a huge group portrait of people struggling to pay attention. In a world delighted, nay obsessed, by information coming at us faster and faster, how can we function, listen and love? …

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