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Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Love Question Mark, Tabard Theatre

If, like me, you are a bit cynical about marriage then 'Love, Question Mark' might be a play for you. This quirky new drama is currently enjoying a run at the adorable Tabard Theatre in Chiswick. The piece addresses the all inclusive topic of LOVE, what it means and why it exists; it is a sad but witty comedy designed to make you think.
With only two actors in the cast, it is certainly a direct and engaging production, the audience is often addressed and included in the drama. At times though, the action is so bizarre and aggressive that I was perplexed and confused about the message.
In brief, the play seems to be a loose comparison of marriage and prostitution, examining how society has shaped these conventions and stereotypes. The programme quotes Simone de Beauvoir: "the only difference between prostitution and those who sell themselves into marriage, is the price and length of contract". As 60-something year old Stuart Sessions loses his wife, after 32 years of marriage, he is forced to seek sex elsewhere and he believes hiring a Russian prostitute to come and live comfortably with him is the ideal solution.
The set is minimal - a standing screen saying LOVE is placed on one side of the stage, staring at us throughout so we can never forget its presence, or threatened absence. Michael Smith and Clare Cameron take on the massive task of delivering Robert Gillespie's controversial drama to us; quite how they remembered such vast monologues is still a mystery to me. Smith is frank and expressive but when onstage alone I found his speeches a little awkward, he insists on constant eye contact which is often unnerving. Cameron is a mistress of accents and manages the Russian well, throwing her weight around as the experienced lover though is never entirely convincing.
Robert Gillespie definitely has something to say with this drama and I admire his conviction with that, but no matter how engaging and energetic the actors make the narrative, it stretches credibility.
Love Question Mark continues until 23 November, book here.

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