Venue: Drama Barn
Running: Until 5 December
I stepped out of the Drama Barn last night into the snow, feeling bemused and more than a little sandy. Written and directed by Chris White and Sarah Gordon respectively Ta-Ra Love/Bye Bye Love tells the tale of two relationships linked by one character.
Ta-Ra Love was a joy to watch. White’s writing completely captured the essence of youth, boyish banter, and falling in love for the first time. We were taken on the journey alongside Albert (John Askew) in his quest to get the sweet Annie (Roni Hare). White, in a script that is both sensitive and hilarious, has created a piece of theatre that engaged everyone in the audience, and that explored the relationships between the young people and their friends, with excellent performances from Freddie Elletson, Louis Lunt and Lewis Chandler. Edith Kirkwood and Max Tyler offer a contrast these characters and seek to remind us that old age does not necessarily require ignorance.
The writing was self-conscious in its use of dramatic techniques, such as asides and a sped up mime against Albert’s lovelorn frame, which helped to add humour and enjoyment, and show White’s creativity. Facial expressions and comic timing again were excellent. The barbershop’s singing and dancing were brilliant, and it gave Chandler, in his Drama Barn debut, a chance to showcase stunning vocals as the character of John.
Bye Bye Love made up the second half of the evening. Unfortunately the bridge between the two plays was tenuously made. Annie, now old, comes into the feuding couple’s lives when her husband Albert dies. It all seems rather coincidental, and the play would have benefited greatly if the link had been strengthened. Annie is described as being “a spirited old trickster”, something which did not always come across. This is possibly due to the fact that she was also supposed to be in mourning, but it meant that it was always either one or the other.
The use of music and the screen was highly effective, and it was a great shame that there were technical issues with the videos. I enjoyed the choice of soundtrack, and felt that George (Dan Wood) and Julia (Laura Horton) dancing to Don McLean was truly beautiful. However, even this was let down by poor tech; the stops were abrupt, and although at some points this was intentional, a more professional fade out would have blended the scenes, and improved the overall effect.
To tackle such an emotionally charged and sensitive topic as the demise of a marriage is very difficult, and sadly in this case it was not entirely successful. The character of George is too immature, and more of a Basil Fawlty, to be believable as a man in his fifties going through a serious marriage breakdown, perhaps contributing to some of the difficulties. Sarah Gordon alludes to moments of brilliance, but fails to fully push them through. I wanted to cry, and at points was exceedingly close, but it almost felt as if she was holding back, relying on, at times, self indulgent poetry, and just needed to be braver with the dialogue.
However, the set and costume for both halves were perfect, and the positioning of the audience added to our engagement. All the cast members provided polished performances and should be praised once again for the high standard of talent that has been shown. Overall an enjoyable evening ensued, and although some aspects could have done with more work or development, watching the actors dance and sing whilst sat in a deckchair rooted in sand more than made up for any discrepancies.