REVIEW: Loop, Theatre Royal Stratford East

Thomas Froy reviews Loop – a play which celebrates music and how people evolve with the music that they listen to. 


Loop, now touring to 53 Two, Manchester, is a new play about the unities and differences between generations. Following the stories of three people in the sixties, the eighties and the present day, the recurrent theme is the power of music to rescue us, unite us, bring us together, invigorate us with a passion for life.

The play opens with a rip-roaring fast narration from Lucy Annable, as ‘The Woman’ taking us on her lightning fast journey from the safety of her home in London to the dangerous North. She arrives and is immediately swept into the bright light of music, drinking and smoking and the ‘60s. Told via monologue, ensemble physical theatre and music, the journey doesn’t stop for one single moment, creating really exciting, fun theatre. There is a risk that speed sacrifices honesty or moments of simplicity, but this wasn’t the case with Annable: her face and gestures remained extremely expressive throughout such fast-paced action.

Time travel to the ‘80s, ‘The Boy’ (Aaron Price) and ‘The Girl’ (Emily Costello), ‘The Woman’s daughter, meet at a disco and flirt, slightly predictably, agree to meet for the pictures, challenge each other to dance offs and discuss the dangers and delights of smoking. This section of the piece had a slower pace, but again this didn’t have the expected risks of actually slowly down, because where it traded pace for honesty, a greater sense of tenderness and romance was created.

Finally fast forward to the present day, Price and Costello’s son ‘The Young Man’ is creating new mixes on his laptop and music has taken a totally different turn. He travels back to London from his hometown in the north, with barely a map and a phone to a club in Dalston to meet his mate ‘Matt’. In some ways, the role of music in coming of age has changed a great deal, but in others it remains the same. And this is the ultimate theme of ‘Loop’: as the title suggests, music plays different roles in different people’s lives. But in the respect exactly, it plays the same role: responding to your needs, wants and desires as a young person in a big fast world.

Sound familiar? My only critique of ‘Loop’ is that it was utterly uncontroversial. It challenged no social conventions, offered no new insight into the role of music in our lives, refuted no narratives or authorities and broke no boundaries. It’s not necessarily the responsibility of every theatre production to be the new ‘Waiting for Godot’, but still, ‘Loop’ felt very familiar and unadventurous.

That said, I can’t actually critique the production on anything it did: the physical theatre was smooth and the acting was faultless. Particular credit to Lucy Annable for playing the through thread in a whirling, fast-paced fun piece about music in everyday life through the ages.

By Thomas Froy 

Rating: ❤❤❤❤

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