Review: Love, National Theatre

“I’m so sorry”

Oooft. No remedy for the January blues this, but one of the most brutally affecting pieces of theatre you could ever bear to see. Alezander Zeldin’s Love follows what life can be found in the anonymous surroundings of a halfway house, a hostel run by the council for people in need of temporary accommodation. People are only meant to be there for a maximum of six weeks but with the system in meltdown, some have been there for over a year, living beyond what anyone could ever call reasonable.

It is tempting to see this as the failure of Big Society but really it is society in general that is being held to account here. The blind eye that we continually turn to those less fortunate than ourselves, the bureaucratic nightmares that we read Guardian thinkpieces about and then never consider again, the consequences of the collapse in the social responsibility of social security, the brutal reality of how desperately foodbanks are needed and the desperation that people feel in needing to use them.

Zeldin tells his story through the lens of a family shafted by a greedy landlord, evicted on the same day that the father should have been at the Jobcentre and so losing his benefits, and a man and his elderly ailing mother, the ones who have been there for more than a year with no end in sight. And the playwright, who also directs, dresses up the narrative with no extraneous detail or drama; it is painstakingly, painfully, observed in every frustrating detail of how fucked up this world, our world, is. 

What pulls us through is the innate humanity that shines through, when it can, that gives the badly needed glimmers of hope, for us as much as these characters. The love that is shared among the family led by Janet Eluk and Luke Clarke, and particularly in the filial relationship between Nick Holder and Anna Calder-Marshall is almost too much to bear, indeed I sobbed silently for a good portion of the latter part of the play and for pretty much most of the journey home. Essential theatre. 

Running time: 90 minutes (without interval)
Photos: Sarah Lee
Booking until 10th January, then playing Birmingham Repertory 26th Jan – 11th Feb


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