Theatre in Wales

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Bravura and Daring

At RWCMD

Richard Burton Company- Love and Information , Caird Studio, RWCMD , December 11, 2013
At RWCMD by Richard Burton Company- Love and Information David Bond, the Royal College’s Head of Actor Training, and team have again performed a service to theatre in Wales in staging a work from outside of the highest distinction. “Love and Information”, premiered at the Royal Court in September 2012, is a brilliantly-hued despatch from the trenches of modernity. Director Mel Hillyard’s programme note makes playful reference to what she calls “Caryl Churchill’s bonkers play.” Certainly the author breaks every rule of dramaturgy that is there for the breaking. But then Matisse once admonished a prematurely adventuresome pupil; it takes, he said, first a total mastery of the rules to know how they may be broken.

“Love and Information” comprises fifty-one scenes and a further thirteen that are optional. It creates theatre in the way that Giacomo Balla made his iconoclastic Futurist canvases a century back. Sharply delineated spikes over-lap and cohere into a whole that binds and transcends the shards in the formation.

Some scenes comprise no more than a few lines. All home in, with utmost verbal economy, on a sharply defined situation from the world of now. A cool researcher dices the brains of chicks and sees the physical etchings made by memory. An investigator patiently seeks to understand the nature of the words from a divine source that have impelled an unspecified atrocity. A woman sings a Paul McCartney classic to make connection with a damaged loved one. Two interrogators take a break, not much worried whether the information they elicit be truth or not. Lovers reminisce or quiz each another. A woman reels off the most arcane facts of general knowledge but hesitates over a simple expression of love. A man in unromantic fashion tells his partner that sex is the way in which genes exchange information.

Formally, the writing represents its content. Information Overload Syndrome was given medical classification some years ago in the US. The sensory and information prolixity of “Love and Information” leaves each viewer with her particular memory trace. Thematically there is a repeated return to an internet chat room. Every member of the ten-strong cast carries their smartphone, depicted late on in all its voyeuristic and objectifying practice. Caryl Churchill ends on a note of a bitter joke. It is very internet, very 2013.

“Love and Information” overturns precepts of actor preparation. There are no names, no characters as such to study for agency and motivation. The rapid-fire sequencing requires the players to be immediate embodiment. Mel Hillyard pulls it off superbly. The staging is severe. The small Caird space has been re-rendered in black with a shiny reflective floor. The audience are seated on two rows of wooden seats that face each other. Physically the actors are never more than a few feet away from their audience.

Sophie Smith’s jagged sound design accompanies the action. The unerringly sharp syncopation of the dialogue betokens weeks of hard rehearsal. The costume design, from Patti Sanpher Porteous and Olivia Emmerson Pratt, built on autumnal ochres and magentas, is subtle and clever. Mel Hillyard wisely lets each actor speak in their natural register so the production has an aural diversity to it. In this bewildering bricolage of a world Anni Dafydd at times speaks in reassuringly West Walian tones. Cadences of Wales come through in the voices of Annes Elwy and Mari Izzard. Aleda Bliss’ American is teasingly far from south or mid-west but quite not Canadian either; her voice turns out to be that of a Vermonter. The cast, uniformly impressive, is completed-in entirely random order- by Joe Windsor, Thalissa Teixeira, Simon Mokhele, Toby Vaughan, Robin Willingham and Jordanna Moran.
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The production credits are extensive and include Cardiff High School and Cardiff’s Techniquest. The Caird Studio has over the years seen every possible manifestation of theatre. “Love and Information”, both strange and convincing, must be one of the very best.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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