Review: debbie tucker green’s latest play is a fresh look at the intricacies of love.

a profoundly affectionate, passionate, devotion to someone (- noun) – debbie tucker green’s latest play is a fresh look at the intricacies of love.

By Heather Marks

debbie tucker green’s latest play fulfils the promise of its title. Anyone who’s been in a relationship knows the familiar arguments – the ones with the good-hearted ribbing, the ones which re-tread the same ground (like clothes left on the floor), and the ones which cause a deeper digging down, to reveal knots of pain irredeemably entangled with love. While the shared recognition of couples arguing connects an audience to tucker green’s characters, her poetic stylisation of this familiar territory makes a profoundly affectionate, passionate, devotion to someone (- noun) truly captivating.

A triptych of couples are nondescriptly named A and B, Man and Woman, Man and Young Woman in distinct tucker green fashion. In this Royal Court production, directed by tucker green herself in the Theatre Upstairs, the audience are seated on low, swivelling stools, with the action pacing around them in an elevated U-shaped walkway designed by Merle Hensel. Before any dialogue is uttered, the actors hold chalk in their hands, etching lines and circles in the pastel green wall, a collage of geometric shapes.

ROYAL COURT / JERWOOD UPSTAIRS: a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone.

Shvorne Marks. Photography credit: Stephen Cummiskey.

Part One opens with A and B, played by Lashana Lynch and Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, and theirs is the standout performance – not because they play their roles any better than the other actors, but because tucker green gives significantly more room in the play for A and B’s relationship to flare and decline. The audience are immersed into A and B’s relationship and witness significant milestones – firstborn child, second-born child, the decision about whether to have another child, and the death of a partner. Each event produces pain as well as an affirmation of love, and it is this complex co-habitation, of two paradoxical states of being in relation to another person, which tucker green captures so deftly.

Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Lashana Lynch. Photography credit: Marilyn Kingwill.

Lynch and Eustache Jnr never drop the beat with tucker green’s dialogue. The audience whip their necks back and forth to catch Lynch and Eustache Jnr’s rapport, as they bound along with tucker green’s cut and mix style. In one scene, B (Eustache Jnr) waxes lyrical to A (Lynch) on how he feels about her, recalling a Def Poetry Jam.

‘I wanted you beyond sentence in between

syllables above vowels under consonants and

after punctuation.’ [1]

Sections stand alone as discreet love poems, showing tucker green doing what she does best, remixing phrases until they become like a new language. It is this sparring of words, their friction against each other, that produce the verbal volleys between actors to give the play a crackling energy  – electric even in the silences. Part One ends with a climactic, heartbreaking scene, as B confronts the death of A, and it is difficult to tear one’s eyes away from Lynch and Eustache Jnr’s grief-stricken embrace, as Meera Syal and Gary Beard take the baton into Part Two. I found myself swivelling back to watch Lynch and Eustache Jnr in their dimly lit section of the stage, planting soft, slow kisses, and tender strokes on each other, a captivating ebbing away of the pain laid bare, and the love rushing in to heal.

ROYAL COURT / JERWOOD UPSTAIRS: a profoundly affectionate, passi

Lashana Lynch, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr. Photography credit: Stephen Cummiskey.

It is difficult to disentangle oneself from the drama of Part One, but Meera Syal and Gary Beadle deliver excellent performances as Man and Woman in Part Two. Although their relationship does not flare as brightly as A and B, tucker green offers a different insight into the intricacies of love – this time in a union levelled by illness.

From left: Meera Syal, Gary Beadle. Photography credit: Alastair Muir.

Gary Beadle returns as the Man in the final pairing in Part Three, with Shvorne Marks playing the Young Woman, the grown-up daughter of A and B. Marks and Beadle have great chemistry in the last act of this play – Beadle’s cheeky posturing elicits wry chuckles from the audience –  and when the light-hearted teasing turns into biting accusation, the terrain becomes all too familiar once again. tucker green’s play is a poignant reflection on relationships and how we mature with people – what we are willing to learn, accept, confess and concede. The play also offers reflection on the ways in which we do love, without shying away from the lacerations we can inflict when we choose to love and be loved. The play makes good on its name as a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone; a masterstroke in capturing the highs and lows of love without the distaste of clichés. Another hit for the increasingly incomparable debbie tucker green.

ROYAL COURT / JERWOOD UPSTAIRS: a profoundly affectionate, passi

From left: Shvorne Marks, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr. Photography credit: Stephen Cummiskey.

Showing until 1st April, at The Royal Court: https://royalcourttheatre.com/whats-on/aprofoundly/

[1] debbie tucker green, a profoundly affectionate, passionate devotion to someone (-noun), (London: Nick Hern Books, 2017), I:II, p.10.

 

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