Love Me Now
Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 29th March 2018
“a relevant and contemporary narrative that explores consent within a relationship”
The stage is taken up by a sloping double bed, red material snaking up the headboard to weave through the ceiling, clothes strewn, all slightly reflected in the shining black floor. Designer Fin Redshaw punctuates set and costume alike with bright red, a colour that bring out the intensity of the piece and mixes sexuality with foreboding. Michelle Barnette’s debut play is opened by B (Helena Wilson) entering through the audience, staring wide eyed at us as she moves to the stage, ‘Voulez Vous’ emblazoned across her T-shirt.
In B’s flat, A is preparing to leave post sex but when the door gets stuck, the pair are forced to discuss what exactly is going on between them. Interspersed with snapshots of their relationship prior to now, what begins as a conversation about a relationship unearths an ugly and pervasive misogyny. This is a relevant and contemporary narrative that explores consent within a relationship, the silencing of women, and the double standard surrounding sex and gender, that slut-shames women who have lots of sex and deems them “whores”, yet normalises and accepts this behaviour in men.
Helena Wilson is fantastic as B, urgent and warm, rounded and relatable, she comes alive onstage and is impossible to stop watching. Alistair Toovey as A is utterly unlikeable, callous and violent. Gianbruno Spena offers sinister comedy as C, but his characterisation feels the most stylised, the least natural.
What should have been the final scene is incredibly powerful, as B prepares to go out, shaking hand applying lipstick after a scene of near rape and near domestic abuse. This is an image of absolute strength in its vulnerability, reminding the audience how unfortunately normal this kind of narrative is, how many people have experiences like this and are forced to carry on. This should have been a brutally moving final moment.
Unfortunately this is not where the play ends. There is another half hour yet to come of light relief that descends into something more sinister, and a replay of earlier scenes, that seem an unnecessary over-labouring of the point. This second segment of the play does not take us anywhere we had not already arrived at, and does not give the audience and the actor credit for being able to understand and deliver respectively the impact of what has happened to B in her single lingering stare.
This is a compelling and moving piece of theatre with a stunning performance from Helena Wilson, that just didn’t know when to end.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
Photography by Helen Murray
Love Me Now
Tristan Bates Theatre until 14th April