Wed 16 May
words: GARETH LUDKIN
While a play about first love is not something I’d typically run to watch at the theatre, Shock ‘n’ Awe’s Love At First Light manages to capture the warmth, humour and pleasure of human relationships through six true stories of loves lost, found, squandered and denied.
Written and directed by Greg Cullen, with moments of choreographed dance by Phil Williams who also co-directs, we are introduced to the characters of the play on a sparse beach scene – each individual with their own stories, monologues and memories to share with the group who find themselves on the same stretch of beach with more in common than they might at first think.
Each character’s memory of first love is re-told through a series of mini recollective re-enactments – the characters interlaced and interchanging as we flit from the past to the present. All the stories are alarming in their own way; from a rambunctious couple whose blasé experience of swinging leads to a spell of misguided prostitution, to a young Pakistani woman who has suffered the hard road to happiness through a series of mistaken relationships and an arranged marriage gone wrong.
Along with moments of dance and song, cast members interchange smoothly to tell the story of naive first love between a young student and an Italian born again Christian, as well as the blossoming romance of a WW2 telephone operator and a handsome American soldier. Greg Cullen manages to mix pathos with humour in a script which, combined with the engaging physical aspects of the performance, draws numerous laughs from the audience.
Jams Thomas captures the audience with his excellent portrayal of the uncouth husband, while Natalie Paisey also puts in a great performance as the dedicated wife. Hannah Daniel is impressive as the naive young student, while Gary Knowles provides an excellent anchoring role.
Love At First Light didn’t really plumb my emotional depths – but that’s probably due to the fact that I haven’t really been around long enough to appreciate or identify with the complexities of true love – but while the emotional aspects of the play failed to hit home, as the denouement of the play came to a head with wit and energy, I appreciated a strong sense of beauty, inherent in the inevitable naivety, failure and pleasure of first love. Greg Cullen manages to bring, with a necessary slice of wit, an engaging and honest appraisal of the memorable, expressive and emotional human relations we form. As is so neatly put near the start of the play, “love isn’t like a pop song,” and for all the heartbreak, love is a thrilling rollercoaster, regardless of a neat ending.