We checked out the Museum Of Natural History for a couple of hours, grabbed some dinner at Pizza Express on King’s Road, then got to the Royal Court with enough time to get our seats…
…except I booked our tickets for the afternoon matinee show, not the evening one. Yep – shoulda checked my confirmation e-mail, but I was sure I booked for the evening show. Panic ensued – but luckily, enough people didn’t turn up for us to grab a couple of spares. We had to pay for the spares, as the show was sold out, but the seat I got was in the front row – so that was a sweet upgrade!
I’d never seen a Churchill play before this and this one’s a bit of a non-traditional work. The play doesn’t have a narrative structure as such. It’s set up into seven ‘blocks’ of scenes, or vignettes. Each block does seem to have a theme, about either love or information, or sometimes both. I didn’t get a program for the show – so there are possible names for the scenes. Some reviews I’ve read have attributed names, but I’m not sure if that’s the reviewer’s suggested titles.
The set resembles a white-tiled box and all of the action takes place inside of it. The vignette lengths vary, from under a minute to about five minutes. Some are set outdoors, some in offices or homes. The 16-strong cast all play various roles and none of the characters have names or recur in the work. A vignette will finish, the stage goes dark, some sound effects or music plays, and then new characters appear in the space. It’s almost like channel-surfing, or watching YouTube clips on a tablet. You don’t get any background on any of the scenes and it leaves you to try and work out a possible back-story. A few of the them don’t require it, as it is plain what the circumstances are.
There’s a lot of humour throughout the play–in one scene, an old woman is told the number of words for “table” in various languages and concludes with “Well, it still feels like a table.” In another, a man and a woman are in a gym and he is expounding on another woman he knows. His female friend in the gym grows more exasperated as the conversation continues. It turns out the man is talking about either a computer, or a virtual ‘girlfriend’ he has online. One vignette has people playing a word game with a phrase in a book, utilising the words “door”, “mountain” and “girl” – the concluding phrase one of the characters says is “The girl couldn’t get through the door because she’s as big as a mountain.”
There’s also confusion, depression, madness and fear. Another vignette, which I thought was about a politician, has a man and his wife holed up inside a house. The press are outside and are badgering him for a quote. He finally relents and says some nonsense, but doesn’t feel any better for saying what he did. A family watch a wedding video but discover they can’t actually remember anything about the actual day – only what is on the tape/CD. In both a sad and somewhat funny scene, a woman stops taking her medication and tells her boyfriend that the traffic lights at the end of their road are giving her signals that he is evil. A man and a woman are playing a memory game and she suddenly has a memory, perhaps long suppressed, of her late father.
Each ‘block’ is assigned a number, except for the very last scene, called simply “+”. The entire cast are assembled in what looks like either a waiting room, or departure lounge of an airport or bus station (I thought it was the latter). A man is testing a woman on trivia, and slips in a question about her loving him. At first, she pretends she didn’t hear it, but a few minutes later responds in the affirmative. While it’s not the smoothest summing up of the play, it’s a lovely moment and lets you go out on a high, after the heaviness of some of the scenes.
The cast are all excellent, given that they’ve got to create believable characters, sometimes with only a few lines to work with. I especially liked Rhashan Stone, Susan Woodward, John Heffernan, Linda Bassett, Amit Shah and Amanda Drew (natch!). I thought the scene transitions were clever and the co-ordination involved in swapping props and actors in “the cube” seemed impressive to me.
If you’re into unconventional theatre, you will probably enjoy “Love And Information” – if you’re looking for straight-forward narrative, probably best to look elsewhere.