Monday, May 20, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

Review – It Must Be Love – Hope Street Theatre

OPENING Paul Daley’s play ‘It Must Be Love’ on Valentine’s Day is a seriously tongue-in-cheek move. This new comedy goes from a disastrous evening out in the first act to a yet more disastrous night at home after the interval, as a loved up couple learn more about each other and their nearest and dearest than they ever wanted to.

The scene is set in a shabby 1970s cinema, with Kia-Ora, Poppets and soggy choc-ices served up to a backdrop of Pearl and Dean. Here we meet Philip and Shirley, settling down to watch Love Story for the umpteenth time. Phillip made the mistake of saying he liked it the first time round, leading Shirley to keep booking for it again and again. Nevertheless, Phillip is prepared to keep seeing it because it seems about the nearest he’s going to get to any sort of intimacy with Shirley, who has a pretty unshakeable standpoint on sex before marriage.

Not a view shared by her mother Pamela, it seems, as she turns up with the latest in a line of boyfriends, Joe. Phillip and Shirley’s dismay at their arrival turns into a deepening embarrassment, as the mother and her boyfriend turn the tables on the young couple, descending both figuratively and literally to the depths, in a piece of pantomime performed behind the seats that’s worthy of a Carry On film.

In the second act, back at home, the discussion about Shirley and Phillip’s love life (or lack thereof) reaches new levels of embarrassment for Phillip. Whilst it’s clear to us that he has simply been respecting Shirley’s wishes – albeit with considerable reluctance – the couple’s self restraint leads both Pamela and Joe to question his sexuality.  In attempting to defend himself, Phillip eventually digs himself into a hole so deep that he probably wishes he could be buried in it.

The play toys with some of the polarised sexual morals of the ‘70s with considerable flair, and underneath the surface of bawdy comedy there’s some interesting personal politics simmering away. Whilst Shirley clearly thought that Phillip was more than willing to wait patiently for their wedding night, it doesn’t take much needling from Joe and Pamela to have him suggest that you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it first. This leads to further revelations about his former exploits that eventually come far too close to home for Shirley. This setting up of a plot and letting it roll downhill under its own weight feels almost Ortonesque.

Sean Radford and Natasha Hale as Phillip and Shirley navigate the emotional slalom of the piece well, Hale ramping up the moral indignation while Radford slides down a slippery slope of confusion. Ethan Madds gives a gloriously comic performance as Joe, as he indulges Pamela’s peccadilloes, whilst Rebecca Casey gives a genuine star turn as the licentious, meddlesome mother.

The two-part format to accommodate a scene change does lead to some overstretching of the material at times (particularly in Act I), but director Kai Jolley keeps the pace moving increasingly swiftly as the show heads towards its madcap conclusion.

Star rating: 4 stars

Review by Nigel Smith

Popular Articles