Love is a leap of faith. Abi Morgan’s new play Lovesong takes the audience with a couple, Margaret and William, as they take that leap into married life in a foreign country. He is a dentist she a homemaker; together they make the move to the US. Their journey through life is told by the couple in old age, as played by Sam Cox and Sian Phillips, as they interact on stage with their younger selves, played by Leanne Rowe and Edward Bennett.
Over the years, both Margaret and William flirt with extra-marital affairs and struggle with the constraints of the expectations of married life. He makes financial decisions early on without her input; she takes a part time job against his wishes. And together they both struggle with the void left by their inability to have a child. The piece moves backwards and forwards through time as the four actors tell the story of this couple’s love, their marriage, and their shared yearning. The two versions of the couple interweave on stage and occasionally there are moments when they seem to catch a glimpse of their other selves in the past or the future.
It’s an incredibly well-cast production. The actors are well-matched in their respective incarnations of the couple. The play is directed by Frantic Assembly’s Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett, and the physical elements, the use of choreography, is superb throughout; the use of movement allows these two versions of the same couple to express themselves. Sian Phillips and Sam Cox in particular show their versatility as performers, undertaking a series of energetic moves that belie their maturity. The use of dance is well judged and works with the text, never overstaying its welcome or distracting from the overall work.
The inventive set plays a vital role. The fridge and wardrobe become doors through which the characters enter the space, giving a dreamlike quality to proceedings. The bed too, is cleverly constructed to allow the four actors to slip in and out of it – something which is used particularly effectively during a powerful scene towards the end of the play. Ian William Galloway’s projections play out on the back wall and the peach tree in the garden comes to symbolise the younger Margaret and William’s expectations of their future together, and later their older selves are able to look back on it as a constant throughout their time in their house together. The peaches perhaps reference T S Eliot’s The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, which appears to be an inspiration for the piece.
Morgan, together with Graham and Hoggett, has created a truly beautiful, thought-provoking piece of theatre, one that elicited sobs from many in the audience. It’s an elegantly crafted production, beautifully written and performed, and staged with real invention – but you may well need to take some tissues.