Love, National Theatre, review: ‘The acting is low-key and stunning’

PUBLISHED: 08:00 28 December 2016

The dress rehearsal of

The dress rehearsal of "Love" directed and written by Alexander Zeldin at the Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre. NO EMBARGO Anna Calder Marshall and Hind Swareldahab

Sarah Lee - 07930392407

‘Love’ is a play of snatched moments,set inside a hostel, the last resort for a cluster of poor people, running out of options.

A middle-aged man washes his mother’s hair over a sink; a father watches his children eat; two women fight over a chipped mug. ‘Love’ is a play of snatched moments. It is set inside a hostel, the last resort for a cluster of poor people, running out of options.

As with Alexander Zeldin’s last play, ‘Beyond Caring’, this is a devised and highly unusual piece of theatre. Zeldin is trying with all his heart to create something that feels real.

The lights stay up throughout, the acting is low-key and stunning, much of the dialogue is mumbled and the dramatic ‘high points’ are slight, yet all the more powerful for it.

Natasha Jenkins’ set is equally unconventional and untheatrical. The audience bleed in around the edges of a communal living space, filled with scattered tables, a cluttered sink and a skylight so grimy it barely lets the light in.

We only catch glimpses of the bedrooms and private worlds within them. Dean (Luke Clarke) and his pregnant partner Emma (Janet Etuk) live with Dean’s two children in a room that is all bunkbed, duvets and family-clutter.

Colin (Nick Holder) and his mother (Anna Calder-Marshall) hide away in a bare room with the door left hopefully ajar, and a Syrian man (Ammar Haj Ahmad) and Sudanese woman (Hind Swareldahab) live in rooms we do not see.

Flickers of kindness and flashes of desperation flare up. The Syrian raps with a surly young boy (Yonatan Pele Roodner).

A confused old woman gives a young girl (Emily Beacock) a necklace. Two men commiserate with each other using only their eyes and a woman lets a frightened man touch her baby bump and cry.

The performances simmer at a painfully low and mesmerising pace. We are forced to lean in, and look harder.

Yes, there is something uncomfortable about a National Theatre audience exorcising their discomfort; what, after all, are we going to do with all this pain we feel at the theatre? But at least – at last – we are learning to listen.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Latest Hampstead & Highgate Stories

57 minutes ago

Local club had to make do without the injured Victoria Bibby, but still claimed more success

Arsenal performed a classic European smash and grab with a late goal from Olivier Giroud to beat Red Star Belgrade 1-0 in the frenzied Rajko Mitic Stadium.

Yesterday, 18:00

The Coles Park club host Norwich United before travelling to Grays Athletic aiming to remain unbeaten in the division

Yesterday, 17:56

The Trustcott Arms in Maida Vale is to re-open as a restaurant.

Yesterday, 17:00

Tottenham Hotspur are now unbeaten in five games at the national stadium and have won matches their in three different competitions

Yesterday, 16:52

Camden recorded the third highest amount of crimes across London in the 12 months up until June of this year.

Yesterday, 14:30

Greens sit top after triumph on Tuesday

Yesterday, 14:27

Dip into a witch’s brew of tricks and treats

Most read Hampstead & Highgate etcetera

Show Job Lists

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Hampstead & Highgate Express
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now