In line with the themes of Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information, Hild Bede Theatre’s (HBT) production explored technology as a means of communicating information. From the moment the audience entered the performance space, they were bombarded with overlapping recordings of the cast speaking lines from the play. In the incredibly intimate space of the smaller theatre (usually the backstage) in Caedmon Hall, this information overload transported the audience into the world of the play (a world, significantly, not so different from our own) before the metaphorical curtain rose.
Love and Information is made up of seven collections of short scenes. These seven sections must go in the order Churchill intended, but the scenes within these sections can be moved around according to the director’s creative vision. The dialogue is not assigned to specific characters, meaning that interpretation of each scene is left almost entirely to the individual production. This allowed HBT’s cast to play to their strengths. For example, Lottie Dick and Tim Porter were often in romantic scenes together, which created thought-provoking parallels between otherwise seemingly unconnected scenes, as well as showcasing Dick and Porter’s unmistakable on-stage chemistry.
Each scene is given a title, such as ‘Fate’, ‘Stone’ and ‘Mother,’ which HBT broadcast on the wall at the back of the stage in typewriter font, again riffing on the theme of technological communication. In such a rapidly moving play, these titles provided a structure which made the pace easy to follow and created an engaging viewing experience as the audience worked to reconcile the title with the action on stage. It was unfortunate that these titles were projected in the top left-hand corner of the back wall, making it difficult for some audience members to see.
Churchill’s script makes it hard to single out actors for their performances due to the fact that there are over a hundred different characters across the play, all portrayed by HBT’s cast of five actors. What was most commendable was the way in which these five actors worked together as an ensemble. There were moments, especially near the start of the play, in which the characters’ staged interruptions of each other overlapped to the point of incoherence. Overall, however, the cast worked well as a team whilst also retaining interesting moments of individuality. In a scene in which Porter, Rose Galbraith, Sophie Crawley and Jack De Deney spoke in unison, asking Dick’s character “because you’re scared?”, each actor seemed to have a different meaning behind the question, creating within such a small detail, a hint of the infinite variety of the entire play.
The mixture of real and unreal in Churchill’s play was realised by HBT in performing some scenes naturalistically, whilst other scenes were staged in a stylised manner. Ostensibly to produce a robotic and performative style, the cast at times fell into the trap of appearing to recite their lines rather than retaining the effect of spontaneous and intentional speech. Similarly, the scenes in which the cast played children were at times over-acted and felt like the lines were being recited. However, Crawley must be commended for her performance in a scene in which she played a child, entitled ‘The Child Who Didn’t Know Fear’. Crawley sat alone on stage delivering a monologue in the form of a child writing a story, which she performed with a compelling mixture of humour and darkness.
One of the key themes, as signalled at the start of the play with the overlapping of recorded lines, is miscommunication. Director Isobel Jacob’s staging cleverly highlighted this theme in visual representations, such as a scene entitled ‘Virtual’ where Galbraith’s character spoke to Porter’s character about her love for a virtual woman. As Porter’s character attempted to make Galbraith realise the irrationality of her love, he sat turned towards her, whilst Galbraith faced out to the audience. Only once did she turn towards him, and the audience was led to hope that perhaps a moment of clear communication was about to pass between them, but this hope was abruptly dashed as she turned away from him and they continued to miscommunicate in line with the theme of the scene.
the play ended boldly with a recording of applause which the audience quickly, and in true British style, joined in on.
Similar to the manner in which the audience was plunged into the world of the play through the voiceovers before the production started, the play ended boldly with a recording of applause which the audience quickly, and in true British style, joined in on. The recorded audience applause, heard through the same medium as the character’s lines, highlighted the ways in which the audience is a part of the world of the play and its depiction of love and information. Although this was the final night of HBT’s Love and Information, it is a production that connected so intimately with the audience that it will be sure to live on in the audience’s mind for a long time to come.