Birmingham Rep Studio
ALEXANDER Zeldin’s previous work includes the phenomenal Beyond Caring, which looked at zero hours contracts and the people that worked for a cleaning agency which deployed them.
In Love, Zeldin, an associate director at the Rep, takes similar themes of social injustice and looks at the lives of those bordering on the poverty line, showing us the various inhabitants in a temporary accommodation flat over the weeks of Christmas.
To describe the plot so simply is to defy the brilliance of Zeldin’s message. Love goes beyond a simple plot and looks at what people do on a day-to-day basis.
Although seemingly mundane, we can actively see the daily struggle of others. Zeldin has a talent for revealing something very real, that we know is happening right now. Love is about the forgotten and the humblest of people. With a reality all too close to home for some and a shocking insight for others, Zeldin has a unique and striking way of speaking up for those who need to be heard.
In aparallel to Ken Loach’s acclaimed film I, Daniel Blake, Zeldin injects a vivid reality that tells us that anyone can be in the same situation. The audience sit practically on the stage, which instantly pulls us into the story. With an immersive style and all too truthful performances, it is not hard for an audience member to be immensely moved by this striking performance.
Within the flat, we see two families. In one room, we see Colin and Barbara, who are mother and son. Barbara, played by Anna Calder-Marshall is sick and Colin cares for her full-time.
Calder-Marshall gives a weight to the frail lady. Nick Holder plays Colin who, in spite of his continuing love and sheer sacrifice to take care of his mother, still finds a breaking point from living in such close proximity to his mother and other strangers.
Holder gives a poignant performance that is completely truthful and at times heart-breaking to watch. Through Colin and Barbara’s story, we see a complete social and political injustice towards the most vulnerable.
Anna Calder Marshall as Barbara and Darcey Brown as Paige. Pictures: Sarah Lee
In the second room, we see a young family. Talented Janet Etuk plays heavily pregnant Emma who lives with Dean, played by Luke Clarke. Clarke plays the desperate father with the sense of having the weight of the world on his shoulders. Along with children Paige and Jason, the family found themselves in the flat after being evicted due to an overnight rent increase.
The flat also houses Tharwa, from Sudan and Andan from Syria. All must share the tiny bathroom and communal kitchen and of course, because of this, the space is prone to conflict. No privacy can be had in the small and intimate space, and the audience are exposed to every small detail spanning over the winter period.
The strangers are forced to live together through the fault of circumstance and each inhabitant’s story is a world away from their neighbour. Although they are distinct, there still seems to be the underlying sense of unity in everyone’s desperate desire to get out of their current living situation.
The set designed intricately by Natasha Jenkins is innovative and striking with the sheer essence of poverty instantly reflected. All the action takes place within the communal kitchen and occasionally, when their doors open, we can glimpse the small rooms they live in.
The whitewashed walls and broken tiles of the ceiling show that there is no capacity for homely touches when day-to-day survival is the only priority. With the addition of stark white fluorescent lighting, the strikingly real picture of all who live this reality is finally given a platform.
Zeldin is a visionary of what is current and important. With a poignant subject and a striking truthfulness, we are reminded that people are living in these situations at this very moment. The simplicity of making breakfast or talking over the phone is what makes this piece a great reflection of reality. When a social injustice is spoken about on a way that does not preach, but only observes, a new genre of theatre is born. To 11-02-17