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

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

Moving house but don’t want to lose your beloved green spaces? Have no fear, portable gardens are all the rage these days.

Yesterday, 13:25

Arsenal’s latest financial results published this week show a record high of £110.5m spent on players – with a 20 per cent rise in turnover to £191.1m from £158.1m for the six months to the end of November 2016. Layth Yousif MBA studies the results so you don’t have to...

Yesterday, 10:00

5 tips to think about when renovating, repairing and replacing your roof

Yesterday, 09:09

A teenager has been jailed for rape and attempted murder after stabbing a 15-year-old girl and forcing her to have sex with him in Hampstead Cemetery.

Yesterday, 07:56

The editor of long-running Arsenal fanzine The Gooner has revealed it is to close its print version.

Fri, 20:09

The first in an occasional series of Q&As with Arsenal fans. To kick it off we have Kevin Whitcher, editor of the The Gooner fanzine which been published continuously since the 1980s. Read on for his views...

Fri, 17:30

Rare Modernist property offered to house hunters seeking a slice of history

Fri, 17:05

Murdered children’s author Helen Bailey lived for 20 years in Highgate before moving to Hertfordshire to be with the lover who turned out to be killer.

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