John Kolvenbach’s modern American classic has been brought expertly to life in just two weeks by Theatre Group. The small cast of four shine to an almost professional standard – this is everything good, small-scale student theatre should be.
The story of Beane (Robin Johnson), an oddball whose brain is wired a little differently to your average man alongside his new love, cat-burglar Molly (Anita Thomson at her very best), accompanied by his exasperated sister Joan (an impeccable Caitlin Meredith) and her long-suffering husband Harry (Oliver Bray) is presented in one act to the audience in an intimate, mismatched space in the Annex Theatre – one can believe that the audience space is merely an extension of the set, which is predominantly Beane’s sparsely furnished apartment. The space works perfectly, as do most of the uses of set across the various scenes. One scene, where Joan meets Beane in a café, was set entirely at a small table on one side of the stage – a daring choice, as sightlines were compromised at times, but not much of a detriment to the overall show.
Kolvenbach’s writing sits comfortably between the real world and Beane’s imagination, as well as between comic and serious – while there are many humorous situations presented, the issue at the heart of it all is a tragic one. At times the potential poignancy of the script was compromised for the sake of audience laughs – for example, some lines were lost in the fast-paced argument between Joan and Harry which opens the show, especially as the actors were already wrestling with American accents. As well as this, whilst his performance was by no means weak, Johnson’s portrayal of Beane was perhaps misdirected, appearing too much of a caricature at times for the audience to feel as much empathy as they potentially could have.
While there is really no weak link in the cast, it is the women who truly deliver in this show. Meredith is comically faultless as Joan, playing the seemingly temperamental character with an exceptional degree of plausibility, and gaining a laugh a minute along the way. It is Thomson, however, who really steals the show, giving an impossibly endearing performance as Molly. Her movement is confident and flawless as she throws herself around Beane’s apartment, giving the character the ambiguity it calls for. Her capacity for vulnerability, however, is what really makes this performance – watch out for when she pulls the cup out of her pocket, and be prepared to choke back tears.
A hidden gem on campus and an outstanding example of what Theatre Group can produce, Love Song is not a show to be missed.
Love Song is on in The Annex until Wednesday 1st October – reserve your tickets here.