This drama is part of The Royal Shakespeare Company’s ‘This Other Eden’ series, in which contemporary writers offer a new view of English history. “Loveplay”, by Moira Buffini, is the first of these plays.
The play follows 2000 years of love and sex that take place in the same location in London. This is an interesting idea, but sadly it is not brought into fruition in this play. This is not to say that I did not enjoy Buffini’s drama, on the contrary, I found it witty, erotic and captivating. It is just that the effect of moving through history in the same location was lost in this staging. Two items remain on stage throughout, a big beanbag and a tree trunk, but these props somehow become forgettable. If I had not read the synopsis before hand I would not have thought that the scenes were taking place in the same location!! There is only one part of the play that reminded me that it was set in one location and that was the sound of voices that could be heard in one of the earlier scenes and then again in a later scene with the characters trying to find out where the voices were coming from.
This drama may have failed to impress with its execution of the location, but nevertheless it is full of many scenes concerning love and sex that are short, funny and sometimes sad. It begins in the Roman era with a soldier attempting to pay a whore with newly invented money, but she wants to receive payment in the form of a chicken. It ends with a modern dating agency run by lesbians. One scene includes a rape, and other scenes include Saxons, lesbian nuns, gay vicars, prostitutes, virgins etc., all covering various aspects of sex.
It may seem that I am implying that this play is verging on the pornographic, but it is not. It is tastefully written and succeeds in getting across its observations without being vulgar. There are not many nude scenes so the prudish do not have to worry too much, although Ian Dunn does stand completely naked for about 10 minutes!
The play has received good notices from most of the popular press… MICHAEL BILLINGTON for THE GUARDIAN says, “Loveplay is perfectly entertaining.” And goes on to say, “It is briskly directed by Anthony Clark and well acted by a six-strong cast.” RHODA KOENIG for THE INDEPENDENT describes it has a “snappy production”. BENEDICT NIGHTINGALE for THE TIMES says, “Buffini can write entertaining dialogue.” And goes on to say, “Buffini and Anthony Clark’s versatile cast produce some enjoyable and even enlightening snippets.” CHARLES SPENCER for THE DAILY TELEGRAPH says, “Buffini's delightfuly quirky, funny and touching Loveplay, a hit if I ever saw one.” PETER HEPPLE for THE STAGE describes it as a “brisk and amusing play”. NICHOLAS DE JONGE for THE EVENING STANDARD was not too impressed, saying, ”The versatile Ian Dunn and Niamh Linehan catch and hold the eye. Loveplay itself is no theatrical catch.”
Lasting just over an hour-and-a-half without an interval this is a good play, with or without the ‘same location’ angle!
(Production Photos by Conrad Blakemore)