How to put this delicately?
The Whingers occasionally wonder who will wear the mantles of our great acting dames when the more senior ones exchange waiting in the wings for wearing them.
So there was almost spontaneous combustion during Love, Love, Love when the Whingers simultaneously realised they had identified one.
She comes in the shape of Victoria Hamilton. Comparisons to other grande dames were bandied around at both intervals (yes, there are two, but it bothered us not a jot): Dorothy Tutin, Fennella Fielding and post-show the Whingers almost exploded in unison trying to get Joan Greenwood’s name out before the other.
So you’d be right in assuming we were impressed by her performance on display in Mike Bartlett‘s hilarious comedy. And that’s not to undermine the other performances, heck we liked all of them, especially since most of them have to play characters over a two to four decade time span. A big ask, but it’s handled convincingly enough given the task.
Phil was excited from the off. It’s 1967 and Kenneth (Ben Miles – excellent) is trying to make himself comfortable on the sofa (neatly echoed by George Rainsford at the opening of Act 2) to watch the first live global TV event Our World. Phil remembers watching it that Sunday evening in June with over 400 million other people (his family had a very large lounge) and being deeply disturbed by the whole thing. He recalls two things from the telecast: watching the Beatles sing the specially commissioned “All You Need is Love” and a woman on another part of the planet giving birth. He just couldn’t get his head round it and was never quite the same again.
But back to that sofa. Kenneth is living in his brother Henry’s flat. Uptight Henry (Sam Troughton giving Pinteresque menace) is bringing his 19-year-old free-spirited girlfriend back and wants his bro to go out for the evening. But Kenneth isn’t going anywhere and when Sharon (Dame Victoria) arrives there’s an act of betrayal which will change the course of their lives forever.
We meet Kenneth and Sharon again with over 20 year gaps between each Act. In Act 1 they’re high on dope, Act 2 high on alcohol and in Act 3 high on money much to the chagrin of their daughter Rosie (Claire Foy). Their appalling selfishness from the sixties hasn’t left them and the effect their self-centeredness has on the kids proves key to events suggesting Philip Larkin may have had a point. They’re dreadful people at the centre of this play but it’s a testament to the writing that they prove utterly compelling.
The Whingers were chortling throughout. There’s a nicely delivered and wicked Wicked gag which left us laughing slightly longer than the rest of the audience and extended the play’s running time by several seconds.
Phil had a few whinges. Sharon talks with a sense of hindsight in Act 1 and is it really happening on a Sunday evening? Chippies always close on a Sunday even in London. And that 1967 Radio Times wouldn’t have been falling to bits and held together with Sellotape unless they’re complete telly addicts and thumbing it constantly. Mock up a facsimilie so it doesn’t look as if it’s been hanging around for over four decades.
Quibbles aside it’s still gloriously entertaining; a well-constructed package, niftily directed by James Grieve to get plenty of big laughs out of Bartlett’s script. And despite its two and three-quarter hour running time it doesn’t feel that long. The Whingers left wanting even more. How often do we say that?
Were the sixties really that bad for us? Phil remembers the decade fairly well which suggests he wasn’t there. Rest assured he was in his own way. Andrew can remember very little, which proves nothing.
The run at the Royal Court is sold out. Queue for a day seat now or hope that it pops up with this cast intact in the Royal Court’s season at the Duke of York’s.
Phil went as far as to say he even preferred it to Cock. Praise doesn’t come much higher than that.