‘My head’s too full of stuff.’
This line best describes how an audience is left feeling at the end of Caryl Churchill’s disorientating Love and Information. An exploration of memory and the modern world’s obsession with information, the play is a series of unconnected scenes – in one, two estranged lovers recount their relationship, in another, a man describes how he has fallen in love with a computer. The scenes range from comedic to emotional, yet there is an uncomfortable atmosphere maintained throughout that makes even the most arbitrary episodes haunting. In a small room in Hild Bede’s Caedmon Hall, Love and Information is near claustrophobic.
Such a diverse play, particularly one that prescribes little more than the dialogue, requires a strong director. Isobel Jacob and assistant director Olivia Swain certainly tackled the challenge that Churchill’s script presents. The production is well-paced, and the juxtaposition of scenes of higher intensity with more muted or comic episodes ensures that the performance neither lags nor becomes too exaggerated.
Though props and special effects are kept to a minimum, Jacob still fully exploits her production team. Before anyone walks onto the stage, we hear the voices (and sneezes!) of the cast through the sound system. The atmosphere of unease is established from the very beginning, and despite the domestic setting of the bedroom in the first scene, the audience cannot feel entirely comfortable. This effect is achieved also by the stripped-back set – a radio, a book, and a lab coat are among the few props used to indicate setting. It’s a fittingly minimalist production, and no prop or effect is wasted.
Love and Information demands a lot from its actors. HBT’s modest cast of five transformed from lab scientists to schizophrenics, and from confused children to frustrated wives. Every member of the cast display impressive flexibility, and though some characters are performed more strongly than others, none fall flat. Sophie Crawley is stand-out in her ability to adapt to this range of roles – her earlier appearances as truculent, working-class characters strike the balance between realism and comedy perfectly, and her recurring portrayal of a child is touching. Tom Porter’s title as ‘King of Accents’ is certainly well deserved, and a useful talent in a play that requires him to switch from Welsh to articulate Southerner in a matter of moments. He is at his best in seemingly light-hearted exchanges with another character, and acts the parts of confused and frustrated young men especially well.
Rose Galbraith is consistently both comic and authentic, achieving a brilliant depth to even the most simple characters. In one scene, she appears in sunglasses and appears at first a petty young woman – a moment later, she is delivering the news of an affair with great sincerity. Similarly, fresher Jack De Deney achieves some laughs, but is slick and convincing in a range of roles, bringing a great energy to the stage. It is difficult to believe this is only the beginning of his DST career.
Lottie Dick, while also taking up multiple roles, returns frequently as a young woman disconnected from both the other characters and events onstage. Her performance is the most unerring – she captures the strange combination of disassociation and desire to connect that is central to the play, and her consistency in such a fractured drama is welcome.
HBT’s production of Love and Information is a marked success. Definitely one to watch, it will leave an audience questioning their own relationships and beliefs even after the last ‘I can’t remember’ has sounded.
Hild Bede’s Love and Information is on 23rd-24th November at 7:30pm.