This fascinatingly powerful new play from Cordelia Lynn examines the vicious cycle of politics, history and discrimination through the eyes of one couple.
One of the things that I love the most about theatre and those who write plays for the stage is the way in which it can bring not only stories to life but also parts of history that are sometimes tragically forgotten about in the wider world while those who lived through it can never forget. In addition to this, it is also the way in which we can use history to examine what the world is like today and to see what we can still learn from it.
This is something that is very much at the heart of this electrifying and well thought out play by Cordelia Lynn, which follows the story of a a Jewish physicist and activist poet who meet and fall in love, but as society begins to fracture around them, their struggle to survive and stand up for what is important to them explodes into violence. Split into two halves, the play then goes back into time and is set against the backdrop of the horror of the Lemberg Progrom, leaving the audience wondering do we genuinely learn anything from the mistakes of the past and how we can move forward in terms of tolerance and acceptance. At times, the way in which the scenes are split can make the production feel slightly fractured and disorientating, making the story come across as not as fluid as it could possibly be.
This tightly focused production directed by Elayce Ismail, wonderfully highlights each point that is expressed in the play through Joshua Pharo’s dynamic use of lighting combined with Richard Hammarton’s sound design that captures the intensity of the relationship between the couple at the centre of the story as their relationship begins to break down, while equally capturing a glimpse of the horror that took place in Lemberg in 1918.
What is really impressive about the production is the way in which it makes full use of the space thanks to the clever designs of Basia Binkowska (leading to some of the most impressive effects I have seen used in such an intimate space). The set design allows the characters to have plenty of space to express themselves physically – yet somehow keeping the audience thoroughly engaged with what is being said.
It is a real rollercoaster of emotions throughout – and the cast all do well to express the powerful nature of the arguments that are spoken of by the couple at the centre of the story, played by Tom Mothersdale and Abigail Weinstock with such passion and believability that is heartbreaking to witness.
To say too much about what happens throughout the course of the play would ultimately ruin the experience of seeing this thought-provoking play live – but I would certainly be interested in seeing a fully fledged play about the Lemborg programme which deserves to explored and focused on in its own right. Heartbreaking and fascinatingly staged, Love and Other Acts of Violence is certainly worth paying a visit to the Donmar Warehouse for.
By Emma Clarendon
Love and Other Acts of Violence continues to play at the Donmar Warehouse until the 27th November.