Love Me Now, Tristan Bates Theatre

He never loved me. Not even for a moment.

4-out-of-5-stars-rating

It’s weird when you see what you think was your own private pain, your own personal grief, felt so long ago, written on stage as an experience universal enough to have every woman in the room nodding and gasping. Meanwhile, the men – the fucking men – laugh inappropriately in all the wrong places. They’re laughing at her. Her desperation, her neediness. By extension, they’re laughing at me.

B (Helena Wilson) is that woman experiencing what so many of us go through in our 20s: the ill-advised “friends with benefits” with an old uni friend she’s actually desperately in love with. She’ll do anything it seems to keep it going; anything but actually be honest about how she feels.

A (Alistair Toovey) is the charming bastard getting his end away while he searches for the real thing elsewhere.

Both leads are completely believable each projecting their own share of wit & vulnerability. They’re sexy together, they work together, but mostly when they are pretending they aren’t. These are layered roles and both actors handle them superbly. They work because they are real enough. You see why he goes back, you see why she lets him. You see why it may never actually be the last time.

The staging is sparse but works in drawing your attention to what this drama is truly about. The bed is centre stage, as are the different interpretations of what happens in it. The floor is as messy as the emotions. There’s a lot of booze flying around.
The drama is occasionally hard to follow as the timeline chops and changes and you struggle to keep up certainly in the first half. Why do so many plays do this at the moment? It’s not needed, certainty not here.

The drama would be more powerful without it. I felt perhaps the writer, Michelle Barnette, was flexing her wings and playing with the form, but I wish she’d had the courage just to tell her tale.

I also wasn’t really sure what point was made with the introduction of nice(ish) guy C. The acting by Gianbruno Spena was fine but the role felt underwritten and a little less realistic than the others. As if the playwright too was just much more interested in A.

Love Me Now made me cry. Actually, my past made me cry, but Love Me Now made me confront it. It’s a bittersweet work, so real at times I both winced and kissed my teeth. If – like me – you recognise the story all too well, it’s not an easy work – no light-hearted shagging romp. Its ambiguity is as heart wrenching as its certainty.

But for all the pain it made me remember, it was never a dull ache.

Love Me Now is on until 14 April https://www.tristanbatestheatre.co.uk/whats-on/love-me-now

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