1967. Kenneth and Sandra meet, and it’s a whole new world.
A fiery relationship is sparked in the haze of the 60s, and charred by today’s brutal realities.
From passion to paranoia, Love, Love, Love takes on the baby boomer generation as it retires, and finds it full of trouble.
Mike Bartlett’s play, which won a UK Theatre Award for Best Play this year opens at the Royal Court in a brand new co-production with Paines Plough
The play was originally produced in October 2010 by Paines Plough in a co-production with the Drum Theatre Plymouth, where it opened, before embarking on a 14 week national tour.
Mike Bartlett’s plays at the Royal Court include Cock for which he won an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre and which will transfer to New York Off Broadway in Spring 2012, Contractions and My Child. His other plays include 13 at the National Theatre, Earthquakes in London for the National Theatre and Headlong, and Artefacts at the Bush.
James Grieve, Co‐Artistic Director of Paines Plough will direct. His credits include, for Paines Plough: Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett, Fly Me to the Moon by Marie Jones, Tiny Volcanoes by Laurence Wilson, Wasted by Kate Tempest, You Cannot Go Forward From Where You Are Right Now by David Watson and The Sound of Heavy Rain by Penelope Skinner. He was formerly co‐founder and Artistic Director of nabokov and Associate Director of the Bush Theatre. For The Bush: The Whisky Taster by James Graham, St Petersburg by Declan Feenan, Psychogeography by Lucy Kirkwood and A Nobody by Laura Dockrill (Sixty-Six Books). For nabokov: Artefacts by Mike Bartlett (nabokov/The Bush, National Tour & Off-Broadway); Kitchen, Bedtime For Bastards and Nikolina by Van Badham. Further credits include the world premieres of Old Street by Patrick Marber (nabokov Arts Club) and The List by David Eldridge (Arcola).
Select a Date
Dates in April
|Fri 27 Apr 2012||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 28 Apr 2012||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Mon 30 Apr 2012||7:30pm||Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
Dates in May
|Tue 1 May 2012||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Wed 2 May 2012||7:30pm||Concessions Available, Preview Performance||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 3 May 2012||7:00pm||Press Night||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Fri 4 May 2012||7:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 5 May 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 5 May 2012||7:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Tue 8 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Wed 9 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 10 May 2012||2:30pm||Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 10 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Fri 11 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 12 May 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 12 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Mon 14 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 15 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Wed 16 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 17 May 2012||2:30pm||Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 17 May 2012||7:30pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Fri 18 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 19 May 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 19 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Mon 21 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 22 May 2012||7:30pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Wed 23 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 24 May 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 24 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Fri 25 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 26 May 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 26 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Mon 28 May 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£10. Tickets released 9am|
|Tue 29 May 2012||7:30pm||Captioned Performance||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Wed 30 May 2012||7:30pm||Post-Show Talk||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 31 May 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 31 May 2012||7:30pm||Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
Dates in June
|Fri 1 Jun 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 2 Jun 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available, Audio Described Performance, Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 2 Jun 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Wed 6 Jun 2012||2:30pm||Concessions Available, Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Wed 6 Jun 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 7 Jun 2012||2:30pm||Mid-Week Matinee||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Thu 7 Jun 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 9 Jun 2012||2:30pm||Saturday Matinees||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
|Sat 9 Jun 2012||7:30pm||Jerwood Theatre Downstairs||£28, £20, £12|
Sold out Performances
Mondays all seats £10 (available on the day of perf from 9am online, 10am in-person.)
Concessions £5 off top two prices (available in advance for all performances until 5 May inclusive and all matinees. For all other performances, available on a standby basis on the day)
25s and under £8 (ID required, not bookable online)
School and HE Groups of 8+ 50% off top two prices (available Tuesday–Friday)
Groups of 6+ £5 off top price (available Tuesday–Friday, not bookable online)
Access £12 (plus a companion at the same rate)
5 stars The Daily Mail by Quentin Letts, 4 May 2012
Playwright Mike Bartlett, b.1980, takes a tremendous pop at the
Fifties babyboomer generation which, ‘hung out’ in the flower-power era, smoked weed, received full student grants, divorced like Tudors and has now taken early retirement on large pensions — just before the West’s economy went bung.
Mr Bartlett kebabs ’em, good and proper, those ghastly perpetual groovers with their sub-Paul McCartney ways, their contempt for family loyalty, their insistence on doing their own thing.
This play seltzer-fizzes with indignation (and bad language) but is laced with enough humour and dramatic verve that by the end of the last preview the audience was roaring its approval.
This was amazing, given that many of them looked exactly the sort of privileged floaters this play satirises so well.
Love, Love, Love is so titled, in part, because of the lyrics in the Beatles song All You Need Is Love. That tune is playing one evening in 1967 when sexy Sandra visits brothers Kenneth and Henry in their dingy London flat.
Posh Sandra (Victoria Hamilton, here a delicious cross between the young Antonia Fraser and Elizabeth Taylor) is the new girlfriend of grafter Henry.
He has just had a hard day at work. Henry (Sam Troughton) is a square.
He likes only classical music. Sandra, who is stoned, starts flirting with the younger, trendier, lazier, more intellectual Kenneth (Ben Miles). They elope.
Act Two takes us to 1990, in Kenneth and Sandra’s middle-class house. The set has been completely changed in the first of two intervals. Busy night for the stagehands.
Kenneth and Sandra are heavy drinkers, awful parents. They have two teenagers, Jamie and Rosie. Miss Hamilton has by now transformed Sandra into a careerist shouter.
She and Kenneth have both had affairs and are aghast at their humdrum existence. ‘We live in Reading,’ says Kenneth. ‘Something has gone wrong.’
The Court audience loved that line. But the admirably aspirational Berskhire town of Reading can relax. Mr Bartlett’s real target is these snobbish, spoilt characters. In Act Three, we have moved to 2011.
Divorced, retired Kenneth, who dresses in fraudulent white floaty shirt and deck pumps, looks just like Tony Blair on holiday.
He lives in a modern country house: another set, warmly lit.
Jamie (George Rainsford), now an adult, is a wreck. Rosie (Claire Foy, excellent) turns up with a problem of her own.
She complains that her parents gave her so little guidance when she was young. Back comes the response: ‘Why did you listen to us? We’re your parents. You’re supposed to rebel.’
Throughout, the acting is top notch, the pace of James Grieve’s direction just right.
The one tin-ear moment is when Mr Bartlett has Rosie bawl at her parents that their generation voted for Thatcher, Blair and Cameron.
In my experience, the people most loopily prejudiced against David Cameron and his deficit reduction plan are guilt-ridden 60-somethings who hate the thought of the splurging years coming to an end.
They still do not see that they bankrupted the country, financially and morally. Mr Bartlett should correct that political blind spot because it is key to the fecklessness of these old hippies.
Otherwise, this is an exciting evening, dart-sharp, horribly true. ‘Love, love, love,’ sing The Beatles, as the babyboomer adults (who never grew up) embark on another episode of self-absorption, leaving the next generation once again to clear up the mess.
4 stars The Evening Standard by Henry Hitchings, 4 May 2012
This piercingly funny play by Mike Bartlett takes its name from the opening line of The Beatles’ anthemic All You Need Is Love.
It is a satire on the selfishness of baby boomers, illuminated by some beautifully nuanced performances — notably from Victoria Hamilton.
The action spans more than 40 years. When it begins, the self-obsessed and bohemian Sandra (Hamilton) is dating the rather square Henry, played by Sam Troughton. But she is seduced by the more rock’n’roll credentials of his brother Kenneth (Ben Miles), a handsome and tousled student.
Bartlett follows this less than lovable couple as they transform into disillusioned fortysomethings, loudly dissecting their marriage, before settling into a sedate retirement.
Unsurprisingly, their children Rose and Jamie turn out to be stifled by their influence. Rose is played with fierce precision by Claire Foy, recently seen in the BBC’s White Heat. She resents her parents’ level of material comfort. “Buy me a house,” she demands. It is a request that bounces off their carapace of smugness.
Meanwhile Jamie (George Rainsford) retreats into a state of erratic and barely articulate detachment.
Rose speaks for both in complaining that the baby boomers, instead of changing the world as they had once hoped, merely succeeded in privatising it. The barbs are sharp. They prove most acute in the play’s Sixties phase (more than a decade before Bartlett was born), when the seeds of later strife are sown. The self-love of that period’s young adults, Bartlett seems to say, kept them from learning about responsibility.
The plotting edges towards the schematic and sometimes context is strangely absent. Surely Sandra would tell Henry that she is a student at Oxford? And ought we not to have an idea of what careers Kenneth and Sandra pursue? Yet the writing is observant and James Grieve’s production, though it sags at a couple of points, mainly has a lucid intensity.
It is the superb Hamilton and Miles, who over the course of nearly three hours have to portray both teenagers and characters in their sixties, who make the most telling impression.
Hamilton appears especially to relish the blithe awfulness of Sandra. But plaudits also go to Bartlett, who leaves us thinking that love, despite its rewards, definitely isn’t all you need.
5 stars WhatsOnStage by Michael Coveney, 4 May 2012
Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love is one of the most ambitious, and most accomplished, domestic dramas in a long while and in James Grieve’s fine production boasts two performances by Victoria Hamilton and Ben Miles that will surely feature at the year’s end in all the awards lists.
They play Sandra and Kenneth, trippy hippy lovers at Oxford in the late 1960s, then embittered parents in 1990 (“We live in Reading; something’s gone wrong”) and finally selfishly reunited old friends in 2011.
Why the “selfish”? It is Bartlett’s fashionable, reactionary (and deeply flawed) view that the baby-boomers, beneficiaries of the post-war re-build and new moral laxity, have spoilt the world for their children.
In a coruscating third act the couple’s daughter, Rose (Claire Foy), an impecunious musician who can’t afford a child, a house or a car, accuses her parents not of changing the world, but of buying it. Their son, Jamie (George Rainsford), is a monosyllabic, unemployed iPad geek sharing a home and a wine collection with his indolent father.
As in 13, his underrated dystopian epic at the National last year, Bartlett reveals a fine talent for the Shavian rant, having earned the right with a strong theatrical set-up. While Sandra and Kenneth may sound a little like characters evoking the sixties rather than living them, the shift in social tectonic plates is brilliantly done.
The first upheaval is Kenneth’s snaffling of Sandra from under the nose of his elder brother, Henry (Sam Troughton), a working-class billboard poster man who’s caught the eye of a passing “bird”. That “bird,” like Kenneth, is at Oxford and the druggy die is cast.
The expected split between brothers is left unexplored as the play accelerates to the domestic jungle with accusations of infidelity and Sandra’s drinking causing deep unhappiness all round. The echoes of the Beatles’ song of the title (as in, “All You Need Is…”) suggest that love is usually never enough.
Hamilton gives a ravishing display of huskily-voiced self-centredness while Miles, unrecognisable as the lolloping student of the first act, drifts into middle-aged soulless inertia then retired material smugness (earning £60,000 a year without doing anything) in a natural, utterly convincing dramatic progression.
In some ways, Bartlett’s play – co-produced by the Court with Paines Plough in association with the Drum Theatre Plymouth – is an act of revenge by one generation on another. As such, it’s a classic Court play with an authentic noise of anger and resentment.
It’s also very funny, brilliantly designed by Lucy Osborne, and cheeringly given the full main-stage treatment that should ensure the sort of maximum cultural impact once the province of John Osborne and, more recently, David Hare and Jez Butterworth.
4 stars Time Out by Caroline McGinn, 4 May 2012
They retired early, to vast houses that their unlucky spawn will never be able to afford, which they don’t even bother to live in because they’re off shafting the planet with cheap flights to sun’n‘plonk-drenched global beauty spots, which are overrun by silver surfers just like them.
Since 2010, when Mike Bartlett’s pointed black comedy about a pair of baby boomers premiered at the Drum Theatre in Plymouth, this permatanned generation has been pilloried in the papers for visibly enjoying its state-pensioned, NHS-prolonged life while the rest of us graft and groan. But it’s hard to work up outrage when the baby boomers in question – swinging ’60s sweethearts Sandra and Kenneth – have most of the best lines and all of the fun.
Bartlett’s comedy shows Sandra and Kenneth’s lives in three acts. In the first – set in the summer of 1967 – the spectacularly stoned Sandra wafts into student Ken’s life on the arm of his uptight older brother Henry, whom she ruthlessly ditches in the name of ‘Love, Love, Love’.
In the second, it’s booze, booze, booze as ’90s Ken and Sandra, now married with two kids in Reading, screw other people, their own relationship and their devastated teens with total abandon. In the third it’s 2011 and their 37-year-old daughter Rosie (Claire Foy): single, childless, car-less and renting in London, turns up to demand some of their money, money, money.
Bartlett is a big talent and, although this play’s arguments seem less fresh than they did two years ago, it still sparkles in James Grieve’s stylish, sexy production. Victoria Hamilton is its star: she takes Sandra from hippie chic 19-year-old to monstrous MILF, to radiant retiree with extravagant conviction and an amazing voice which oozes fag smoke, wine and unrepentant sin.
She and Ben Miles’s Ken are a suburban Taylor and Burton – Bartlett exaggerates the damage they do to their children. But it’s no good. Rosie’s critique of her parents sounds didactic and dull despite its essential truth. Ken and Sandra’s love hurts everyone around them but it heats up the stage.
In the final scene you’re still rooting for the appalling duo as they float away from the demands of their kidults – whose misfortunes they cannot, after all, be wholly blamed for – on a cloud of nostalgia and boozecruise wine, into their extended personal sunset. 4 stars The Guardian by Michael Billington, 4 May 2012
Mike Bartlett, as we know from plays such as 13 and Cock, can write big or small. In this piece, originally produced by Paines Plough and the Drum Plymouth in 2010, he combines the two modes. By following the fortunes of a particular couple from the late 1960s to the present, he offers an indictment of a generation. While I find his accusations a bit sweeping, his play is also rivetingly watchable.
Kenneth and Sandra originally meet in 1967 on the night of the first global TV show on which the Beatles sang All You Need Is Love: he’s a drunken sponger, she’s a stoned free spirit, and they hit it off immediately. By 1990, they are comfortably off, middle-class but curiously negligent towards their two children, and facing the wreckage of their marriage. But the payoff comes in a third-act family reunion when their daughter Rose, once a promising violinist and now a disappointed 37-year-old, rounds on them and their peace-and-love generation claiming: “You didn’t change the world, you bought it.”
As a survivor of the 60s, I think Bartlett is unfair to a decade that saw Britain become a better, more tolerant place: capital punishment was abolished, homosexuality decriminalised and racial discrimination outlawed. But he offers a wholly persuasive portrait of a couple who typify some of the less attractive aspects of the period, including its naivety and narcissism. James Grieve’s production also boasts a peach of a performance from Victoria Hamilton, who moves brilliantly from the floaty sylph of the 60s to the fitness-conscious female of the present while suggesting they remain the same person. Ben Miles makes a similarly convincing journey from student scrounger to rural retiree without losing his self-absorption. Claire Foy as the couple’s accusatory daughter, George Rainsford as their reclusive son and Sam Troughton as Kenneth’s strait-laced brother are also first-rate in a play in which Bartlett exhilaratingly combines the domestic and the epic. 4 stars Telegraph by Charles Spencer, 4 May 2012
Wow, this one packs a punch. In a theatre famous for encouraging angry young men, Mike Bartlett, a writer in his early thirties, lands some knock-out blows on the complacency and selfishness of the have-it-all baby- boomer generation.
First seen on tour in 2010, and now revived by the Court in a thrilling high voltage co-production with Paines Plough, this is a play that has you laughing uproariously at one moment and wincing painfully the next.
Compared with Bartlett’s big, baggy state of the nation dramas at the NT, this is a chamber piece, with just five characters. But it strikes me as Bartlett’s best work to date, with deeper characterisation, more personal themes, and scenes of extraordinary intensity and emotional truth shot through with dark humour.
The action begins in 1967, during that fabled Summer of Love when the world seemed to turn from dreary black and white into a hippy-dippy Technicolor dream.
Sandra, a sexy, predatory Oxford undergraduate, high on dope, is meant to be having a date with Henry, a strait-laced 23 year old. But she promptly sets about seducing his younger brother, Kenneth, also 19 and at Oxford, and in the two subsequent acts we catch up with them in 1990, when they are married yuppies living in Reading with two teenage children of their own, and in 2011 when they are prosperously retired, amicably divorced and their children are in their thirties.
There are some jolting dramatic surprises as we follow the characters through more than 40 years, and Bartlett proves a stern and powerful moralist. His play insists that the soppy, sloppy self-indulgent values of the Sixties were often deeply selfish – it is significant that Kenneth and Sandra’s relationship began with an act of betrayal – and also suggests that that many of those who embraced the Sixties dream never fully grew up. The dramatist is also articulately indignant on behalf of the children of the baby boomers, who will never enjoy the easy lives and wealth of their feckless parents in these hard economic times.
The one problem that director James Grieve’s powerful, evocative and elegantly designed production can’t entirely solve is having the same actors, Ben Miles and Victoria Hamilton, playing the two main characters from their late teens to their 60s. Their acting is so excellent that it is usually possible to suspend disbelief, though the most powerful of the three acts is undoubtedly the middle one showing the couple breaking up in middle-age before the appalled gaze of their children. Significantly, it’s the one scene when the performers actually are about the same age as the characters they are playing.
Victoria Hamilton brilliantly manages to be both beguiling and vile as the hard-drinking, crassly insensitive Sandra, and there is equally fine work from Ben Miles as her husband, who seems superficially nicer but is actually equally selfish and complacent.
There are also haunting, heart-wrenching performances from Claire Foy and George Rainsford as their damaged children, and one leaves the theatre in no doubt that the Court has another timely, hard-hitting success on its hands. 4 stars Financial Times by Sarah Hemming, 7 May 2012
“It’s your fault,” cries Rose, facing down her bemused parents as they sit sipping wine in the conservatory. Is she right? A struggling musician in her 30s, Rose can’t afford a house, a car or a baby. Her parents, she thinks, had it all: sex and drugs in their 20s; jobs and homes in their 40s; pensions and fun in their 60s.
So Mike Bartlett, in this scorching comedy, focuses on the generational shift in fortunes and the oft-repeated charge that the baby-boomers pulled up the ladder behind them. It’s a play that inevitably raises more questions than it answers, but it is ambitious and hugely amusing. And while Bartlett might simplify issues himself, what he demonstrates with great flair is how every generation simplifies the faults of the previous one.
Given the scale of his enquiry, he wisely keeps his focus tight. The play zooms in on one couple, Ken and Sandra, and revisits them over the years. We meet them first in 1967, a couple of pot-smoking students who talk freedom and change; then in 1990 when, married and mortgaged, they are chafing at the bit; finally in 2011 as they ramble recklessly towards old age. Each act contains a showdown, as the couple first get together, blatantly, under the nose of Ken’s brother (Sandra’s original boyfriend), then split up, callously in front of their teenage children, and finally reunite, ignoring their now adult children’s shaky plight.
Their song is the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”, which lends the play its title. It’s soon apparent that their particular love is pretty self-obsessed. But Bartlett suggests their creed may have damaged their own happiness as well as that of others, offering an uncertain route to balancing freedom and responsibility.
Whatever your judgment on the couple, they are sensationally well played in James Grieve’s acerbically funny production. Victoria Hamilton and Ben Miles age four decades in under three hours and are at their best in their 1990s showdown: a drink-fuelled exchange that has the audience holding its breath. There is great support from Sam Troughton as the brother and Claire Foy as Rose, both brooding with resentment, and from George Rainsford as Jamie, the biggest casualty of the whole affair.
It’s too schematic, too broad and too academic at times (the 1960s dialogue in particular is implausibly self-conscious). But still this is a quizzical, funny and ultimately tragic play.
Variety by David Benedict, 6 May 2012
In the final act of Mike Bartlett’s time-traveling “Love, Love, Love,” 37-year-old Rose (Claire Foy) rounds on her parents, excoriating them for lifelong irresponsibility, not least their sudden divorce. “It was dramatic,” she cries. Ironically, highly entertaining though this sharp comedy initially is, fully dramatic it isn’t. Rose’s climactic political analysis is driven not by character or preceding drama but by Bartlett’s theorizing. In a novel, a form privy to commentary, that’s fine. In a play, this lengthy “what the play’s about” speech feels like a cheat.
Bartlett’s attack on the selfishness of the baby-boomer generation starts out in the summer of 1967 with 19-year-old Kenneth (Ben Miles), down from Oxford university, taking up too much space in the scrappy flat of his four-square, hard-working older brother Henry (Sam Troughton). With arguments about class and underwear hanging out to dry, it’s like a more muzzled “Look Back in Anger” without the ironing board.
Into this combustible mix wafts Henry’s privileged girlfriend Sandra. Played by Victoria Hamilton with blissful comic timing, Sandra is stoned and thinks nothing of filling the room with tension as she manipulates everyone to her advantage with talk of the future and free love while eyeing up Kenneth. It’s blisteringly clear that, at old-school Henry’s expense, these two will get their way.
Jump-cutting in the second act to 1990, married Kenneth and Sandra are now mired in parenting and other traditional mid-life crises. On the eve of her sixteenth birthday, Rose and her 14-year-old brother Jamie (George Rainsford) are as dismissive of their parents as they are secretly needy.
Bartlett’s lacerating dialogue balances satiric intent with painful truth about a long-married couple who feel trapped. Fueled by wine, tiredness and disappointment with whatever happened to their youthful idealism, Miles and Hamilton simply don’t miss a trick as they tear strips off one another. Their zinging precision means bitter laughs fly and everything turns nasty with unexpected revelations. However, the consequent sudden rise in stakes comes at the expense of plausibility.
That sense of contrivance becomes even more present in the third and last scene, set in 2011, where Rose brings her divorced parents back together for the afternoon so that she can read them the riot act. There are still some laughs at Kenneth and Sandra’s selfishness but the scene, character trajectories and, crucially, Rose’s grandstanding speech all feel constructed solely to support Bartlett’s viewpoint. The overstated argument about the generation whose selfishness failed to create a better world for their children may be highly attractive, especially to younger audiences, but it’s one-sided and not embodied by the preceding action.
James Grieve’s production, recast from its 2010 premiere, has some inconsistencies of tone and performance but it is notably alert to Bartlett’s painstakingly planted themes, which are echoed in Lucy Osborne’s design, notably in her costumes. The latter not only unostentatiously nail the three different time-periods, they (and the wigs) expertly age Hamilton and Miles up and down to startling effect. But the neatness of the conception — music in each era is referenced and evidenced by a record player, then a stereo system, then an iPad — grows a shade wearying since it’s ultimately as self-satisfied as the generation the play is attacking. 4 stars Independent by Paul Taylor, 10 May 2012
The Philip Larkin line “They fuck you up, your mum and dad” is so widely applicable that it is almost useless as an epigraph. But though it is not cited here, it has a particular piercing pertinence to Love, Love, Love, a tragicomedy by Mike Bartlett which takes a mordantly funny, shrewd and highly entertaining look at the emotional legacy of the baby-booming generation, now heading into financially cushioned retirement as their children head deeper into debt.
The play began life on a Paines Plough tour last year. It is now splendidly re-mounted in a co-production (and at) the Royal Court by the same director, James Grieve, in tighter shape, re-cast with top-notch actors and more crisply designed. The title derives from the Beatles’ “All You Need Is Love” and the piece begins in 1967 on the day the song was aired on a global TV link-up, before fast forwarding to 1990 and 2011.
Victoria Hamilton is stunningly good as Sandra, the debby dolly bird who ditches the “square”, dated lower-middle-class Henry (a sullen, simmering Sam Troughton) for Kenneth, his attractively-wastrel Oxbridge brother (excellent Ben Miles). Hamilton brilliantly skewers the dreamily stoned solipsism, caressing voiced condescension and utter scatter-brained sense of entitlement of this child of privilege who cries “We’re going to die!” with sudden operatic urgency, as though this truism was a moment of inspired prophecy.
But Hamilton brings to the impossible Sandra an almost poignant air of impending desolation. Even when unearned, as here, that hippy idealism can’t help but move you in its fragility to time and to the way dreamers have to become authority figures in their turn. When I saw the play I was reminded of Edina and Saffy from Ab Fab in Sandra’s alcoholically neglectfully-needy relationship with her daughter, Rose (spot-on Claire Foy). The latter is first encountered as a mortified teenager and then, in 2011, as a 37 year-old musician failure who, blaming her purblind parents for luring her into false hopes, demands that they compensate by buying her a house.
In this revival, Hamilton’s Sandra, swigging wine from the bottle and conducting a public autopsy on her marriage, impresses me more with the sense that the character’s vindictive irresponsibility is a product of real love for the straying Kenneth. Among the victims of baby- boomer emotional values are certain monstrous baby-boomers. Love, Love, Love is ace; go, go, go. 4 stars Sunday Times by Jane Edwardes, 13 May 2012
Conservative ministers and Royal Court playwrights don’t usually sing from the same hymn sheet, but David Willetts and Mike Bartlett are agreed that the baby-boomers have stolen their children’s futures. Bartlett’s lively play consists of three scenes tracing the relationship of Kenneth and Sandra. In 1967, Ben Miles’s Kenneth, a scrounging student, gets together with Victoria Hamilton’s wacky Sandra. Even this is a betrayal, and it’s their self-indulgence that Bartlett criticises as the couple settle for making as much money as they can. “You didn’t change the world, you bought it,” says their daughter (Claire Foy), who in 2011 is finding life much tougher than they did. There is a peach of a performance from Hamilton, who is horrifically funny both as the spaced-out student and as the mouthy mother she becomes. An entertaining ride, even if this baby-boomer is not convinced by Bartlett’s thesis. 4 stars Mail On Sunday by Georgina Brown, 13 May 2012
Taking it’s title from The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love, Mike Bartlett’s astringently funny social satire Love, Love, Love sets out to disprove the song: love is rarely enough and kids, especially, need guidance, direction and discipline.
The play dramatises the notion that the Sixties generation were emancipated egomaniacs who seized life with both hands. They worked hard, played hard and filled their pockets, but then kept it all to themselves – and couldn’t care less about their children, or anyone else for that matter.
‘Things are changing everyday at the moment’, says the idealistic but idle Kenneth (Ben Miles), an Oxford graduate dossing in his brother Henry’s dingy flat in London 1967. Their escape from dreary lower-middle class roots is evidence of the Sixties’ social shake-up – although Henry’s ambition goes no further than his black leather jacket and a job putting up posters. Ken is out to get whatever is going which includes Henry’s groovy pot-smoking chick Sandra (Victoria Hamilton). All legs and bosoms nicely shown off in her psychedelic dress, she is up for anything. ‘We’re the moment’ she slurs, swaying.
Jump to 1990: Ken and Sandra are earning enough to send their teenage children, Jamie and Rosie, to private school, but otherwise neglect them. ‘We’re in Reading’, says Sandra, ‘Something’s gone wrong.’ Drunk and impulsive, she decides she’s trapped and feels entitled to do her own selfish thing and get out. A spineless Ken aquiesces.
In the final act, Jamie (George Rainsford), a childlike thirty-something dropout, still lives with his comfortably retired dad in a swanky house with a pool, while Rosie (Claire Foy) blames both parents for her unsuccessful music career, non-existent love life and having no money. ‘You climbed a ladder and broke it after you. You didn’t change the world. You bought it, privatised it.’ she whines. ‘Buy me a house.’ Her parents are too wrapped up in themselves to care a jot.
The different atmospheres of the three periods are well captured, by by both Bartlett’s writing and James Grieve’s direction, and there are tremendous performances, especially Hamilton as breathy Sandra and Miles as weak-willed Ken. They somehow manage to age from their teens to their 60s with considerable conviction. It is a provocative portrait of appalling parenting but also hugely entertaining.
Fri 27 Apr, 7:30pm Sat 28 Apr, 7:30pm Tue 1 May, 7:30pm Wed 2 May, 7:30pm Fri 4 May, 7:30pm Sat 5 May, 2:30pm Sat 5 May, 7:30pm Sat 12 May, 2:30pm Sat 19 May, 2:30pm Thu 24 May, 2:30pm Sat 26 May, 2:30pm Thu 31 May, 2:30pm Sat 2 Jun, 2:30pm Wed 6 Jun, 2:30pm
Fri 27 Apr, 7:30pm Sat 28 Apr, 7:30pm Mon 30 Apr, 7:30pm Tue 1 May, 7:30pm Wed 2 May, 7:30pm
Thu 3 May, 7:00pm
Sat 5 May, 2:30pm Sat 12 May, 2:30pm Sat 19 May, 2:30pm Sat 26 May, 2:30pm Sat 2 Jun, 2:30pm Sat 9 Jun, 2:30pm
Thu 10 May, 2:30pm Thu 17 May, 2:30pm Thu 24 May, 2:30pm Thu 31 May, 7:30pm Wed 6 Jun, 2:30pm Thu 7 Jun, 2:30pm
Thu 17 May, 7:30pm Tue 22 May, 7:30pm Wed 30 May, 7:30pm
Tue 29 May, 7:30pm
Audio Described Performance
Sat 2 Jun, 2:30pm