Dennis Kelly’s Love and Money at first glance looks like it could be a slightly less dirty version of Mark Ravenhill’s Shopping and Fucking: chiasmatic titles aside, the key themes are remarkably similar. Materialism is a sharply contemporary Western concern, and one that does not show a sign of diminishing any time soon. So take this theme, throw in a touch of Polar Bears-style (Mark Haddon) mariticide and unchronological narrative, and you have the fascinatingly charismatic Love and Money.
Love and Money is structured as five scenes, played on stage in reverse chronological order: beginning with David’s admission of murdering his wife Jess, after her attempt to commit suicide fails, and ending with Jess’s excitement at David’s proposal. The play is at once hilarious, grim, and thoughtful, and Siobhán Cannon-Brownlie’s production did it full justice.
With a set so minimal that even the curtain that usually hides the Barron’s back wall was removed, there was little visual stimuli in the play beyond the actors. The stage was made to be as large and empty as it possibly could, and the natural greyness of the Barron added to the dinginess. One could quite easily attribute the lack of visuals to a lack of money, lack of producer, or general lack of effort: but in this case, it is only too easy to instead argue that the emptiness of the stage is deliberately designed to convey the paradoxical relationship between materialism and emotional desolation.
With nothing to hide behind, the success of the play fell to the actors: Rob Sturrock, Caroline Howitt, Sebastian Carrington-Howell, Carly Brown, Patrick Birch and Daniëlle Hollreiser. They proved themselves beyond all doubt. Each actor seemed inherently suited to the role that they played; all were entirely convincing. The handling of emotions and the comic timing were executed close to flawlessly, and the energy of all the actors electrified the Barron stage to life while still displaying cool and professional control. If any slip-ups occurred, they were covered up without a hitch.
Love and Money is thoroughly grounded, yet maintains a philosophical, intellectual edge, of which the key moment is the relatively surreal mid-scene, where five characters only identified by the numbers 1-5 sit together in intense discussion around a conference table. You need to concentrate to get the most from the ideas discussed, but this is made so much easier by the animation and intelligence of the cast. Definitely one of the highlights of the Mermaids calendar so far this year.
Image credit – Will Moore