As we took our seats, furnished with appropriately rose-patterned cushions, and gazed on at the living room set before us, it was as if we were in someone else’s house, listening in on a private conversation. This set the tone of voyeuristic intimacy for the rest of the show, in which four actors take it upon themselves to deliver monologues by more than twenty different, real people who have been interviewed about love.
This verbatim play about love goes beyond the kind of discussion you will get from your everyday life. It’s more honest than what you’ll get in the movies, and these characters share far more than your friends ever would. It’s a fascinating idea that works well, partly because it was a triumph of acting. The cast have clearly spent a painstaking amount of time watching video clips of interviewees and try to embody their every movement, quirk and mannerism and perfect each accent. Including people of many nationalities in a wide age range, watching the variation in each performance was quite the spectacle. Indeed some of the ‘characters’ were so engaging an entire show could have been crafted just out of their individual stories.
However, if you think by going to see this you will suss out how to be savvy in love, think again. If anything you will leave more baffled by the big L than you were before. Far from clearing things up, this production makes you aware of how complex relationships are. Various themes came up time and time again. It was reiterated that independence was very important to people, that they were looking for someone who would let them be themselves. It was also interesting to see that what people thought about love was pretty inseparable from how they saw themselves and the world around them. However, the joy of it is that you can take from it what you will. It was extremely open-ended, with topics ranging from Valentines’ Day activities, to internet dating, to family dynamics, to the heartbreak of separating from someone you felt you had ‘poured yourself into’. Viewpoints were even-handed and you weren’t steered towards any one judgement.
Although there were a few cutesie oohs and ahhs from the audience, these were greatly outnumbered by laughs. As well as endearing, this production is funny. One notable example was the inclusion of interviews with six and nine year old siblings about their ‘crushes’. Nine year old Drew explains that she had to dump her boyfriend because she found out that he was a ‘show-off’. Although profoundly amusing and sweet, it was also very interesting to see how similar their accounts were to those much older and taking a glimpse at how one’s perception of love and compatibility develops at the ‘grassroots’. Still, the focus was predominantly on the bright side of love and relationships. In only an hour it was probably wise avoiding exploring the more gritty matters like unrequited or forbidden love.
Ultimately, this is a great, unique idea tackled by very capable performers. This verbatim piece has been skilfully edited and directed in order to both entertain and give you a snapshot of what real people think about love. The Love Project, unlike the course of true love itself, ever did run smooth.