Writer: Caryll Churchill
Director: Caroline Steinbeis
Designer: Max Jones
Reviewer: Sheila Stratford
The regional premiere of Love and Information, at the Crucible Studio, has a cast of six actors to perform over 100 characters. It was first performed at the Royal Court in 2012 with a cast of 16 actors. British playwright Caryll Churchill’s play is experimental and challenging. Sheffield Theatres is proud to have performed many of her plays over the years.
The play is set in seven acts which must be in sequence but with the option of ordering about 60 scenes. None of the characters has set names, gender or age, that is left for the director to decide. Some of the scenes – in essence, vignettes – last for less than a minute. Love and Information is a series of encounters with love, modern life with its information overload; an exploration of memory, questioning what reality is and seeking for meaning. Each member of the audience likely leaves the performance with a different interpretation of what the play is looking to convey.
There is too much information for example when a couple go for a romantic picnic on the beach and when he casually enquires about her day – does he really want to know in minute detail her experiments on mouse brains? Likewise, when the cheery nurse questions her patient, is she really interested in her patient or only in a hurry to give her medication?
Towards the end of the play we look on as the characters are being loaded with information like robots.
With the briefest of stage directions or set location allocated by the playwright, the director and her creative team are given a great amount of freedom for interpretation, but also a great challenge. Caroline Steinbeis the associate director of Sheffield Theatres and the designer Max Jones have excelled at the challenge.
For this performance, the intimate Crucible Studio has been configured with possibly its largest stage set. There are ten portals, five on top of each other. There is a seamless flow to the play despite the numerous characters comings and goings from all directions. There are minimal or no props. The lighting and sound is used to great effect to create atmosphere and location. They employ technical wizardry that ensures they keep abreast of the ever-changing scenes.
The cast, Debbie Chazen, Marian McLoughlin, Mercy Ojelade, Ciarán Owens, Ian Redford and Sule Rimi, without exception, give very strong performances. Their mastery of the great variety of roles, costume changes and the stage direction is exceptional. There is a joyousness about their performance alongside the moments of poignancy and busyness. Their rapid interactions on stage are excellent.
The play can leave the audience reeling with the bombardment of scenes and information, questioning and looking for a meaning. Is there love and compassion there? There is not an obvious story but the 105-minute running time without a break is certainly exhilarating.
Runs until 14 July 2018 | Image: The Other Richard