Love, Question Mark - Theatre review by Bianca Lorena

‘Love, Question Mark’
The Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton, London
Running from 18th – 22nd October 2011
Start time 7.45 pm for 1 hour and 45 minutes (including interval)

Classic Spanish style music plays as we take our seats; this fixates us on the stage. The music is welcoming and gives off a relaxing feel to set us in the mood for the show. Minimal set is used but just enough for the small studio space that it is performed in. It consists of a telephone, chairs, books, and a flowery feminine dresser screen which is used to change between sequences. The lighting is bright but just soft enough to still see the actor’s faces when they speak, which draws you into their characters.

In the first act we learn that the character Michael is substituting love and sex through a prostitute named Maria, as his wife has previously died three years before. The play consists of only two actors. He starts off being quite laidback and happy about the situation, but as the play progresses we see that he starts to become unsettled about what is happening. He provides her with luxuries and lets her live in his house, in return for sex, and as he likes to describe ‘sex on demand.’ Maria is a prostitute originally from Argentina, and we learn that her character has had a very tough upbringing from being raped at seven years old to then having to leave her children with a man she loved in a different country due to a payoff. Political references are used to show the corrupt way politicians can behave when she describes ‘servicing them.’ She posses a certain sexual aura, and comes across as very thick skinned. She claims ‘men don’t pay for sex, they pay you to go away after’ which was taught to her by her madam. Maybe this is why she sees living with Michael as a different way of life.

As the second act comes along Michael is the first on stage with a broken arm and a bloody bandage on his head. He starts to talk gibberish about swans and compares them to two lovers. He then thinks that Maria has ‘shagged another swan’ and we see that he is starting to get very paranoid about Maria being with other men and losing her. He won’t allow her to leave the house and go to the shops, and Maria starts to be violent towards him and beats him up. Their relationship then starts to turn into a bit of a mess, with them arguing and beating each other, and Michael threating to have Maria deported back to her native country.

Stuart Sessions as the character Michael is on form with his comedy timing and is likable as a character. From the moment he pulls a pair of women’s knickers out of his pocket he makes the audience laugh. He addresses the audience, and even asks some audience members a question or an opinion. He is quite well spoken, and this is also a contrast to Maria’s broken accent as it shows the two characters different worlds. He dresses like an older man, with a beige cardigan and trousers and this reflects his character well as it shows that he is like an older man in comparison to Maria who is around her late twenties to early thirties. He portrays a manic, irate and excitable like quality to his character which he gets spot on, and he carries this from the beginning to the end of the play.

Clare Cameron as Maria also portrays a clever comedy vibe in her acting that works for her character. She oozes sexual energy and wears fishnet tights, revealing dresses, dominatrix wear and nightgowns. She has a certain aura about her that is intriguing as a character. She is stern but not stupid and holds her own. Even when she does not speak in the play, she sustains the same level of energy and this makes you concentrate on her even more so than Michael at times. However, we see a more vulnerable side to her character at a point in the play when she talks of her mother. Clare Cameron does this really well as the pain in her face is obvious, but she does not play it overly emotional like other actors may have attempted. This works well.

Robert Gillespie, who wrote and directed this play, has done a good job with the way he has approached this. The language and pace flows, and makes sense most times to the audience. The movement around the stage is consistent, but not too much, and the actor’s chemistry is endless. The abstract tendency also used when the two characters hop off stage like rabbits shows a different style of the way the play can be interpreted.

The only downfall of this play would be the storyline, and the feeling that it is always about sex. It would have been nice to see maybe another character on stage to add to things, or maybe if the storyline could have had additional parts added that were not about their relationship. Also, you could hear the musical that was being performed next door at times which was sometimes off-putting!

In general terms, the acting is powerful and dominant with a good scene that is set. Minimal scenery reflects well on the play as an elaborate one would not be needed, and a good director’s interpretation is sought.

Michael Smith- Played by Stuart Sessions
Maria- Played by Clare Cameron

Written and directed by Robert Gillespie
Stage Manager- Alex Finch
Designed by Mamoru Iriguchi and Maria Garcia
Choreography by Polly Bennett

(c) Reviewed by Bianca Lorena on 19th October 2011, for the Female Arts.

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