Review: Lovepuke, Hen & Chickens Theatre

Valentine’s Day has a lot of expectations, and whether you see it as a delightful holiday or a moment to be avoided, Lovepuke takes these feelings and twirls them all together. It reaches toward the in-between stages and shines a light on all the possibilities that come with starting and ending a relationship.

We begin with an introductory glimpse into three very different relationships: the ‘happily ever after’, the ‘never meant to be’ and the ‘almost’. Each romance is outlined with clear and simple indications toward each pitfall and leap of joy: we are told where they finish before we’ve even begun. It works, it’s funny and forceful in its demonstration of what love can look like.

Duncan Sarkies, writer and seeming love-expert, creates this anti-Valentine’s comedy with a pinch of the bizarre. Not only is it framed and narrated by a pessimistic and single, woman but its soundtrack verges on the wrong side of funny. Emma Pallett’s Hermione, the lyrical genius that graces the stage with her odd-ball music (to put it mildly), starts us off with comedic ditties about love and random subjects. It is just about weird enough to be hilarious.

It only gets more wonderfully odd as the play progresses and Pallett becomes more central. Her contemporary Puck reaches its peak, or rather fall, as she twirls off the deep end into a performance riddled with talk of human excretion and encourages the rest of the cast to participate. This is where it stops be a delightful oddity and starts to overshadow the rest of the play’s light comedic touch with its descent into unnecessarily overbearing attempts at humour. However, I still couldn’t help but laugh.

Nevertheless, director Oli Robinson’s use of clever cardboard cut outs to show actions, events and orgasms (or lack thereof) is inspired. Endearing tales of heartbreak, less than successful sex-capades and fanciful daydreaming are all part of Lovepuke’s heart. Quirky use of cut-scenes allows the very contrasting romances to tangle and intertwine, adding further likability and relatability to each character. The romantic bases are covered.

We consider whether love is worth it, whether heartbreak is a sacrifice or a gift that shows that we can feel. One thing that’s for sure is that Lovepuke shows us it’s all in the journey. What could present itself as a typical ensemble comedy takes a modern and honest approach to romantic exploration and refreshes stale stereotypes.

Lovepuke is playing at The Hen and Chickens Theatre until 15 February 2020. For more information and tickets, visit the Unrestricted View website.