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A CurtainUp London London Review
Lovesong


I will live as someone who used to have a life, who used to have a life with someone who isnít here anymore. — Billy
Lovesong
Sam Cox as Billy and Leanne Rowe as Margaret (Photo: Johan Persson)
Writer Abi Morgan is riding on the crest of a wave with her screenplay of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcherís political career The Iron Lady in cinemas now, and her acclaimed serial last year for BBC television of The Hour about television current affairs reporting in the 1950s. Her play Lovesong comes to London after opening at the Drum Theatre in Plymouth to enthusiastic reviews last September.

Taking the same couple in their twenties and in their late seventies, Frantic Assemblyís Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett have crafted and choreographed a physical intertwining of the characters with their memories of what they and their partner once were. This is the kind of play for those who love the physicality of emotional and sentimental connection. Edward Bennett and Leanne Row play William and Margaret as a young married couple having moved to a new country and half a century later Sam Cox and Si‚n Phillips, as Billy and Maggie, look back on their younger selves and pivotal moments of their marriage as they prepare for separation through the death.

The emotional box was ticked for many in the audience with hankies out and the sound of sniffing back tears as Maggie makes plans for her own death and for Billís life without her. An elegiac bed ballet has all four characters diving in and out of the bed linen, disappearing beneath the stage only to spring forth as they are choreographed to seamlessly meld and somersault into each otherís arms. Sam Cox has the best speech, a heartfelt tirade on what he will do without the constraint of his wifeís organisation. This includes passing on the family cat and child substitute Biscuit to a friend convinced her husband would not care for it and he declares, ďIíll grow my hair long and never get it trimmed the third Saturday of every other month as youíve booked it all my life. Iíll leave out the milk, let it go warm on the front step, let it pile up with the newspapers.Ē The fridge is decorated with Post it Note reminders which take off into the video flock of starlings as the play incorporates cinematic projected and animated titles.

The regrets are there as well as the enduring nature of their life together, a childless marriage contrasting what they have become with what they once hoped for. There are moments of pain and conflict. The set has a carpet of fallen autumnal leaves which otherwise is set in a suburban house but with the occasional backdrop of the pre historic French cave paintings at Les Eyzies de Tayac in the Dordogne, a symbol of that which endures. Si‚n Phillips, stiffened by age and illness is remarkable and Sam Cox has all the grumpy old man hurt but I found it difficult to believe that they were the older incarnations of Leanne Rowe and Edward Bennettís characters.

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Lovesong
Written by Abi Morgan
Directed and choreographed by Scott Graham and Steve Hoggett

Starring: Si‚n Phillips, Sam Cox, Edward Bennett and Leanne Rowe
Designed by Merle Hensel
Lighting: Andy Purves
Sound: Carolyn Downing
Ian William Galloway
Running time: One hour 30 minters without an interval
Box Office: 0871 2211 729
Booking at the Lyric to 4th February 2012 and then Citizens Theatre Glasgow 7th to 11th February and Sherman Cymru, Cardiff 15th to 18th February.
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 12th January 2012 matinee performance at The Lyric Hammersmith, King Street, London W6 0QL (Tube:Hammersmith)

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