The scope of Moira Buffini’s Loveplay is impressive, optimistic and ridiculous. Loveplay takes place over 2,000 years on a tiny patch of land in London, upon which 10 tales of romance, sex and love are expounded. The cast of six share 31 characters, from swinging 60s couples at a love-in to defiant lesbian nuns.
With verve and fluctuating flashes of talent, the sextet create an entertaining if not entirely fulfilling night at the theatre. Darren Weller and Gwyneth Price are standouts, with Tanya Goldberg successfully playing five roles in addition to directing.
There are hiccups of course. The tiny dimensions of the space demand more restrained performances from the entire cast, and a somewhat undergraduate instinct to play lines for the cheap gag occasionally undercuts scenes that should be perfectly straightforward.
Such production quibbles are minor though, as the show’s instability lies at the foundations, in Buffini’s playtext. As an academic exercise it gets a big tick, as Buffini manages to parody and subvert the varying notions of love within a given period. In The Renaissance, the rehearsal of a romantic drama leads to the deconstruction of a relationship; in The Romantic Age, the clich?literary governess composes wish-fulfilment prose while shagging her employer; and in The Age Of Innocence the principles of free-love suspiciously favour men despite the advent of burnt bras.
In performance, however, the scenes are too short to provide much emotional resonance and with a running time of only 90 minutes, complex themes and narratives are sometimes painfully simplified. To Buffini’s credit homosexuality is part of her love plays, with gay men hooking up in Victorian England and lesbians waxing dysfunctional in the most modern scene, but like all the scenes they seem insubstantial.
But being left wanting more isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the theatre, and sure ain’t that common. Loveplay is recommended; it’s funny, never dull and even a little sexy. See it with someone you fancy.