Theatre Group made a bold move in taking on Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information. With over a hundred characters and reportedly more than sixty individual scenes and no real discernable narrative, it’s not the most accessible text to put on stage, and well, it can result in a case of information overload.
Each small scene or vignette offers a snap shot of human nature and human life, where love and information are constantly merging and clashing. Scenes vary from a couple struggling to remember the key points and memories of their affair, to one woman becoming emotional when witnessing an earthquake in the news while the man sat next her remains distant and desensitized. Too much information, too little love. Churchill spirals through all walks of life and all sorts of bizarre scenarios with a dizzying speed, but the message from TG is clear; information, often overwhelming, can only be softened and made bearable by love and support from others.
The disjointed nature of the play and often-obscure meaning could have presented a challenge, but Theatre Group stay atop of all of this in their production. The quick-fire scenes were smoothly executed and the ensemble cast kept the energy going through all of them, making sure that there was never a scene that dropped the pace or turned the audience off. It was also frequently funny: a scene where a man impresses his date with the word for ‘table’ in numerous languages elicited a lot of laughter from the audience, and in other places the humour was deftly undercut by the more central themes of the play. When a man proclaimed he’d found the love of his life, sighing that ‘she’s beautiful… she understands me’, only for his friend to point out that he’s talking about a virtual character and not an actual woman, the audience laughed – but it hit just the right note between being funny and also telling of our modern infatuation with technology, perhaps over real human connection.
Some slightly awkward slow dancing aside, the cast were all very convincing in each of their flash roles, and whilst there was a tendency for some of the characters to blend together when played by the same actor, its fairly understandable in a play with over 100 of them anyway, and some very nifty and quick costume changes helped the audience differentiate. It would be almost pointless to try and isolate any of the cast to comment on: all of them were very strong and almost every single member was at one point alone on stage, holding their own. The Banham proved to be a perfect venue, the small stage a perfectly neutral, intimate space that they transformed with the simple addition of tables and chairs, blankets and sheets when the scenes required that extra bit of fleshing out. The sound clips played over scene transitions, varying from the sound of human breathing to instantly recognisable sound bites like the Twentieth Century Fox opening theme, helped add to the universal themes of the play. Love and Information was a small production, and with only ten cast members could have been a challenge, but director Charlotte Everest and the rest of the team delivered a perfectly executed quirky piece of contemporary theatre.
Image courtesy of Devon Handley