Home / Drama / L.O.V.E – The Tobacco Factory, Bristol

L.O.V.E – The Tobacco Factory, Bristol

Writer: William Shakespeare

Director: Paul Davies

Reviewer: Holly Spanner


Based on the Sonnets by William Shakespeare, L.O.V.E was originally produced in 1992, winning the 1993 Timeout Theatre Award. Restaged by Paul Davies, Volcano Theatre Company have revived this piece of dramatic art for their current 2012 tour.

Initially the stage is bare, save three items covered with dust sheets. Gradually we are introduced to the three lovers; the Poet, the Lovely Boy and the Dark Lady as they perform the sonnets with varying levels of intensity. Lust, passion and jealousy are prevalent throughout, with violent and powerful choreography culminating in a tense final scene.

The play is rather slow to start, with an extended scene of dramatic looks as the characters pace the stage making it easy to lose focus in the first few minutes. Likewise, at the end of the play, there is a scene which is repeated three times, each time performed with increasing speed. Although a credit to the actor’s skill, some of the magic of Shakespeare is lost in this repetition.

The casting however is exceptional. The actors completely lose all inhibitions in their desire for each other, while the audience adopt a somewhat voyeuristic rôle. Often, this makes the viewer feel uncomfortable as the play pushes the boundary of what is acceptable, although the impact felt as a result is big.

Andrew Keay (The Lovely Boy) is exceptionally fluid in his movement, reminiscent of watching paint swirl in water. Gentle but powerful, his agility is fascinating to watch as he swings up to the top of a four poster bed without making so much as a sound. Tibu Fortes’ (The Poet) strength lies with his expressions, bringing a very real and human quality to the play. Mairi Phillips (The Dark Lady) has a very emotionally charged rôle to perform, but does so superbly.

L.O.V.E is not for the uptight or shy theatre goer. Cast members fling themselves among the audience, planting passionate kisses on cheeks or lips, sensually playing with their hair, caressing their faces, and throwing themselves into their laps (or, perhaps this is just what such a theatre-goer needs?).

With the stage at the end covered in a mixture of feathers, champagne, roses and discarded garments of clothing, L.O.V.E is a sensual mix of physical theatre, songs and frantic choreography, with speech from perhaps the greatest wordsmith to have ever lived.

Runs until 24th November 2012.

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