Thursday, 15 December 2016

FIVE STAR REVIEW - LOVE at the National Theatre


THIS Christmas while most of us are happily sitting down to a sumptuous lunch with family and friends spare a thought for the 120,000 children and their families who are homeless.
The stats are stark enough but when you see a snapshot of what life is like being homeless and the not knowing when or where you are going to be housed, is something else.
And that is what you see in LOVE, an incredible piece of theatre which has just opened at the National.
The small cast and director Alexander Zeldin used testimonies from people they met over the course of about a year to devise the piece.
It focusses on four different sets of people - a middle aged man and his incontinent elderly mother, a family of four with another on the way, a woman from Sudan and a man from Syria.
All are in the hostel or B&B for different reasons - such as eviction by landlords who double their rent overnight, a delayed payment in benefits, or a lack of appropriate housing for those with complex or special needs - and have been there for longer than the six weeks set down by law.
But all of them are trying to cope and get by despite their circumstances. And these circumstances are often horrific. Living in cramped and often squalid conditions, a family sharing one room, sharing a bathroom and kitchen with people who don’t clean up after themselves, trying to get hold of their housing case officers to beg them to re-house them in permanent accommodation and the stress and strain of having children who are constantly hungry and don’t have anywhere to do their homework or practice for their school nativity play.
Watching it unfold over 90 minutes was often difficult. One of the most poignant and shocking was when Colin washed his mum’s hair with Fairy liquid in the kitchen sink and then dried it with a dirty tea towel. Another was when his mother decided to leave the building without her walking stick. Seeing her stagger through the audience and reaching out to people for a helping hand was gut wrenching - the fourth wall very much non existent.
The cast was excellent - Nick Holder as Colin trying to look after his elderly mother, Barbara, played by Anna Calder- Marshall and Luke Clarke as Dean who was trying to keep his family fed and upbeat despite having lost his job and nowhere near the top of the housing list.
Despite the sadness and horror that we were baring witness to there was much humour to be had and to see the characters try and hold it all together while inside they were no doubt in despair about their situation was humbling.
We only saw 90 minutes - the people in this type of accommodation face weeks and more often months here and it is something we should all be angry about and want to do something to change it.

LOVE plays in the National’s Dorfman Theatre until January 10, 2017 and is produced in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre where it will appear between January 26 and February 11, 2017. Tickets cost from £15. Visit or call the box office on 020 7452 3000.

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