If Caryl Churchill were a pop star; Love and Information would be a kind of greatest hits album. A tasteful one of course, not gauchely packaged, and nothing that would cause long-standing fans to doubt the integrity of their idol, picking up a few of the right kind of admirers with mild interest in the process. But of course greatest hits albums are inevitably scattered affairs; however well-curated they are a distillation, eliding focus and flattening what’s come before, and this well-intentioned play almost seems to fall easily on the ears, almost suspiciously nice in the difficulty it chooses not to select.
Of course a literal greatest hits would be almost impossible, Churchill continues to bend playwrighting, and the evolution of her themes would need several sleeve note essays and at least one concept album to explain. Nevertheless in fifty-seven rapid-fire but leisurely-paced vignettes the philosophy of science abuts left-wing politics; DNA crosses with the making of knowledge; foreign policy and love; only a clear feminist subtext and any engagement with capitalism are missing from these blanched slipped slideshows. James MacDonald charges these with a modicum of invention, vertical beds and cricket wickets, making for some snappy moments and pleasing ellipses, while an excellent cast lend vivacious watchability playing over one hundred punctuative characters.
Against Miriam Bluether’s plain white gridded cube of flapping material, somewhere between a graph and a paper fortune teller, the fifty-seven microscenes are sprawled – like holier-than-thou angels on a pin. And yet this almost mystic knowingness that tends to mark Churchill’s work, marries here with a very demotic lifeblood. Here are instances of British life that could be culled from any supplement, a hallowed ordinariness where we are encouraged to be reflexive about spontaneous language.
And all this technology in the world and meaning still eludes us, the anxieties of knowledge are human frailty rather than politically produced, and all this sighing texturalism within an open-text of intermittent depth feels like some kind of defeat. The question of what had fallen down the back of the sofa to be worked-up here is a live one. The Iraq war seems a sepia place to test political philosophy and how little we know about our masters, as if the info wars never occurred, and the internet hadn’t spawned wikileaks. A woman stands free of phone signal, moored in happy middle class bucolalia, and one wonders if all this can indeed be turned off. In the end this unfashionable and minor play seems curious, I guess, and maybe a little dusty, in much the same way as greatest hits albums on shelves do.