‘Sometimes we think we know what love is until we get hurt and realise the crucial reality’ writes Christopher Woodward, the man behind One-Sided Love, in the programme notes. The show itself is based – as you can probably guess – on love and relationships. So is Likeminded Productions’ new creation a Rom-Com to remember? Or does this show a one-sided performance as well as love?
First off, the opening to the piece is energetic and puts the audience immediately in the palm of the hand of the performers. It is abstract, fun and opens the piece on the front foot. It is confusing then, for the following scene to be the polar opposite in both style and energy. This is the scene that is supposed to build the world in which we are to be living for the next hour or so, and in all honesty, I don’t think it was necessarily relevant. If it had to be there, it could have very easily been a few minutes shorter and been at a pace that was similar to the opening. The same could be said for a number of scenes throughout this piece, as a lot of conversations are repetitive, revisit similar issues or just outright don’t matter. This drags out the performance, lowers the pace and leaves the energy levels in the theatre (of the cast as well as the audience) lower than is surely needed to keep the audience engaged and rooted to their seat.
There were moments I thoroughly enjoyed whilst watching this piece. Most notably, I thought the asides to the audience were clever, witty and where some actors really found their stride. I was a little disappointed that these asides didn’t feature as prominently in the second act, but given how much information and progression of the plot that had been neglected in the first act that the company now had to cram into the final act, I can forgive them for focusing on the action rather than these moments. But this could have been averted by bringing out more information and progression of the plot in the first act and is a straightforward problem to fix.
In terms of the action, I must add that I was a little confused at the timing of the interval, purely because up until that point, not much had actually happened. The development of characters in the piece had only just begun and the plot hadn’t really progressed enough for there to justify an interval. Although saying that, having checked the time during the interval, nearly an hour had passed. Which made me question what it was that had actually happened during the course of that hour?
Essentially, the first act should be there to build the tension and progress the script, but the first act of One-Sided Love doesn’t really achieve that. It spends a long time pontificating over the idea of relationships and the intimate ideas of love and companionship of a handful of characters, but doesn’t really do anything substantial with them that progresses the plot.
The acting sadly mirrored this as the cast struggled to maintain energy in a piece that is too concerned with highlighting that everybody has baggage, and not enough time reflecting on what that baggage does, and the drama that it could have created. The actors struggled to inject pace in this piece and as a result of this, the audience got restless and concentration on what was going on dipped, which then reflected back to the actors, which pulled the pace even lower. Add this to the fact that the cast struggled to project their voices in a space that is notoriously large for a fringe venue, and the outlook isn’t as rosy as you believe it can be at the opening scene of this performance.
My biggest question marks of the night fell on two things: one of which was a directing/acting decision and the other, a problem with the script. Firstly, Lew Freeburn is the main character of this piece and plays ‘Jasper’ in a way that the audience find hard to connect with. Yes, he is somewhat of a ‘bad guy’ in general, but every good ‘bad guy’ has features that intrigue the audience and allow them to buy into their actions. Jasper doesn’t have any of these qualities. He moans about his position in life, is generally a bit of a layabout at work, isn’t liked by co-workers and is a terribly unfaithful partner. Where are the audience meant to be able to invest in the lead character here? Yes Freeburn has some moments of comedy, most notably in the asides, but there are no genuine moments of sincerity that come across that show the audience a flicker of something to invest in. Thus his inevitable downfall is not only predicted, but we don’t feel any sympathy for him.
The above is actually something I feel may be an intentional move. In this case all the sympathy falls with the victims of Jasper’s narcissism and thus not with Jasper. This is a move that could have paid off, but again, needed something in Jasper for the audience to invest in and not be isolated by the character that the entire story focusses around.
The second point of contention is quite a simple one: I was left wondering if the plot has a small hole in it? The second act shows us that Jasper and Iris (Sophie Tyrer) have been together for three years, despite his girlfriend and woman he lives with, Sarah (Emma Webber) working in the same building as both of them and her not noticing. Adding to this, in the final scenes of the piece, Sarah declares that she had met Iris before when saying something along the lines of ‘I knew with the way you looked at her!’ I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist, the line insinuates that the two of them have been formally introduced at some point. Surely if these two characters had met, this surely would have revealed the dynamics and relationships of the two women with Jasper? If I was one of the two female characters, and was introduced (assumingly by Jasper) to the other, the only thing that I would think to talk about would be the thing I have in common with that person: Jasper. I’m not saying that this is a definitive hole that ruins the piece, but it certainly needs a bit of a closer look, as for me it brought the tension down and turned my attention into asking questions over how Sarah and Iris had met and if they had, how they didn’t know about the dynamics of their relationships with Jasper.
On the plus side, the acting has some positives. Sophie Tyrer stands out as a beacon of positivity and plays the naïve new staff member extremely well. I feel she struggled with the asides, but put in a strong enough showing in other scenes that masked this. There was also a positive relationship between Jasper and Jeremy and although they were often at odds with each other, there was a good chemistry that helped the scenes pick up some energy that had been lost in other areas.
In terms of directing, for a debut piece of work from new Director Caitlin Bradley, I think the show has signs of potential. Take the opening for example, it could have very easily been a bog-standard, lights-up, get on with it entrance to the world of the play, but instead there was a fun, physically eye-catching and intriguing scene that the audience bought into. If she keeps learning and developing as she has shown glimpses of here, I’m sure she can hone her craft even further.
This was probably one of the most difficult reviews I’ve had to do of recent times, and I couldn’t really figure out why at first. I think, when I look back at the show, there wasn’t anything particularly bad about the performance or the cast in general. But then again, nothing stood out as being particularly good either. In the grand scheme of things, I do think the show was overwritten. I don’t think the storyline between Jeremy and Patricia added anything of value realistically other than maybe foreshadowing the future of Jasper. The Smith scandal that followed throughout the entire play and given enough time to hint that it had a part to play in the story, was never developed enough to have an impact.
So for me, therein lies the issue with what makes this play a middle of the road piece. It tries to do too much. Scrap the extra stuff, focus in on Jasper’s story, give him some likeable qualities that allow the audience to buy into him and see how much he loves his girlfriend first. Then introduce Sarah. In that regard, it would allow the audience to buy into the situation, see the torment of having to choose between the woman he has loved for a long time, and the promise of everything Jasper has ever wanted in Iris.
Theatrevolt rating: 2.5/5