Love Song at the Holt – Kenber&Son
‘Death to literalism!’
Love Song. 4 characters. A brother, a sister, a husband, and a stranger.
They disappear. Reappear. Do they even exist?
They are constantly moving. Interweaving and crossing. Things are always shifting. Time is always shifting. Their worlds are rocking, unstable. These slick transitions and movements mean there’s a sense of impermanence, like nothing is ever static for too long. In this way, Kebner has created a fluid choreography throughout the play and this feels pleasing despite things constantly changing and the fact you can never quite get comfortable for too long. The choice of ‘The Holt’ as a venue and thus a warehouse staging of this play is also fitting, its eclectic vibes suit the aesthetics of the play well.
There’s a sense of distance in this play. Physically, at times there’s distance between the characters and it feels like they are often at the edges. There feels like there’s an emptiness therefore, a void. It’s a void that’s present physically through how the set’s designed and through the spacing of the characters and it’s also evident mentally or emotionally between the characters. I don’t think they quite understand each other. But, how can they? Beane is either spaced out or erratic, Joan is worried and persistently on-edge, Harry can’t seem to get a word in and Molly doesn’t really exist.
Invisible barriers and limitations seem to be stopping them connecting with each other and themselves effectively. In this way, this play for me became very much about language, communication, and identity. It speaks volumes about how we understand each other, or rather how we don’t understand each other but seek to and it’s often suggestive of an inability to authentically connect with each other.
Underlying these characters lives is uneasiness and uncertainty. This is perhaps because they don’t truly understand who they are, they are stuck in routines, bored and frustrated with the lot they’ve got in life. Parts of their lives are hidden away in the dark and they’re absorbed in their own thoughts, increasingly unable to express what is going on inside their minds. Their struggle with communicating is pushed to the extent that they question whether agreeing with each other is even communicating and Beane is unable to comprehend and respond to questions correctly.
Alongside this, we see a desire to feel intensely. To feel alive. Yet seemingly the only way to achieve this and feel something more vivid and engage in real connections and relationships, particularly for Beane, is to imagine it, to dream it up (which in turn temporarily enlightens his sister’s life and her relationship). Does this therefore consequently trap them further in pretence and unfounded illusions? I’m not sure. On the one hand, it feels like its driving them insane, making them unstable. Nevertheless, in this chaos of emotions there are points of infectious joy and then out of it there’s a genuine moment of affection generated where Joan comfortingly puts her hand on Beane’s head. Here she’s present and it produces a moment of simplicity, calm and understanding. Essentially, in this way the play feels quite nuanced, its cleverly manipulating your emotions and provoking the audience to self-examine.
At the centre of the play is the mentally ill Beane. He’s in the middle of everything and things happen to him and because of him however he never quite grasps control. I’m not quite certain how it ends for him, I don’t even know if I like him. I left feeling like I didn’t fully connect with or get to know any of these characters. They’re elusive. Having said that, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. They are wrapped up in this anxiety, they are overwhelmed with the complexity of living; which I could connect to. In some ways, they highlighted many things I fear feeling or being, being detached, alone and cut off from the world. Or the worry that someone you’re close to is and not knowing how to deal with that or help. Ultimately, these characters whilst elusive therefore are utterly engaging.
I think Love Song achieves a lot. It’s simultaneously stylish and enchanting with an undercurrent of darkness and chaos. It manages to keep the audience a little on the edge, holding their breath and its powerful. In several ways, this play unsettled and moved me and I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly why. In any case, it’s an enjoyable fantasy which among the illusions and anxieties explores simple pleasures of being alive and what I do know is that it gave me a lot to think about.
It’s easy to see why Kenber&Son chose this brilliant play and in my opinion their interpretation certainly did it justice. If you can, get yourselves down to The Holt and catch it before their run ends.
Tickets Performances until Sat 28th April. (Matinee on Thurs 26th April at 4.30pm)