REVIEW: Love and Information

Jamie P. Robson is enraptured by this slick production of Caryl Churchill’s arresting time capsule, a record of the joy and poignancy of contemporary life.

5/5 Corpus Playroom love Love and Information plays Theatre

A terminal diagnosis. A woman struggling to sleep. Another resenting a lack of phone signal. Overanalysing sex. Drunken chats about determinism. Smug, sober debates on God. A group re-watches a wedding video. A dream sparks an affair.

Love and Information is not your typical play. A series of scenes — over fifty — play out in rapid succession over the course of an hour, all dealing with some aspect of, you guessed it, love and information. Some last around five seconds; all come under five minutes.

Upon spotting a Tab reviewer in the crowd. (Photo Credit: Johannes Hjorth)

The elevator pitch, perhaps, would be that it’s a kind of sketch show comprising of more genres than just comedy — though some of the vignettes are, truthfully, hilarious. They are sketches in the sense that they exist for but a brief moment on stage, yet they leave a sharp, vivid imprint on an audience member’s mind, a vibrant reminder of a distilled idea or feeling.

The emotional ambition of the play is kaleidoscopic. Each scene is short, yes, but always intense, moving the audience by turn to laughter, thoughtfulness, or melancholy. The roller-coaster is kept in motion smoothly by a swift, ingenious between-scene transition: a half-second off-on switch of the lights accompanied by the sound of a camera shutter, that familiar sound a subtle reminder of the modern habit of constantly documenting our lives.

Hollie Witton and Dolores Carbonari. (Photo Credit: Johannes Hjorth)

In the interpretive freedom it affords, Churchill’s play has the potential to be a director’s dream (or, in less assured hands, a nightmare): each scene in the script itself is a string of unmarked dialogue, with nothing specified (not even the number of actors involved) except the words that are spoken onstage. So, as this production features powerful, considered arrangements of each scene, suitable praise must be offered director Bali Birch-Lee.

An example of that direction: four of the troupe are based for the duration of the performance in the front rows of the Playroom, using a seat as their offstage. Each character, therefore, emerges from the crowd to step onto the stage; and so, their everyman status is confirmed — they are someone like you. You are encouraged to see yourself on stage, hear your voice in the conversations you’ve had in the past, or might have in the future. The power of Churchill’s reflective text is here impressively augmented.

Hollie Witton and Xanthe Burdett. (Photo Credit: Johannes Hjorth)

Any directorial challenge the play might pose is matched by that with which the six actors contend. For not only are they asked to perform a variety of roles, but to regularly fly between disparate emotional states in the time it takes a camera to close its eye. With so many characters, so many performances of individual nuance and complexity, it’s an impossible task to do justice to the performers. Suffice it to say that the entire cast — Hollie Witton, Glen Collier, Em Miles, Kate Wainer, Xanthe Burdett, Dolores Carbonari — astounded with the dramatic range of their assured performances.

Love and Information explores myriad facets of its titular concerns in pithy, affecting snapshots, forming a supremely compelling mirror of contemporary life.

There’s the info; what’s not to love?

5/5 stars

You can see more of Johannes’ photos here.