‘The course of true love never did run smooth’, once wrote William Shakespeare, and Operation Love Story follows one matchmaker’s attempts to ensure a local couple’s pursuit of true love runs as smooth as possible. Written by Jennifer Williams the play is equal parts heartwarming, heartbreaking and hilarious. It is also part of the King’s Head Theatre’s Festival 46, which is showcasing new British writing.
Williams’ script is truly excellent in the way it allows the audience to be able to visualise complex situations with only one actress and no set. Detailed descriptions of contrasting glass and brick apartment blocks along with the street’s “happy dogs” and busy business people really paint a vivid picture of the environment that our lead matchmaker is working with. This detailed description is vital in ensuring the audience remains engaged and it does so with finess and ease. Not once during the hour did I feel as if time was going slowly or that the story was dragging – I just couldn’t wait to find out what happened to the couple next.
Actress, Marie Rabe had a challenging job to keep everyone engaged in an hour long love story armed only with an empty stage, a few lighting changes and Williams’ script. Rabe lived up to and exceeded this challenge absolutely wonderfully. She captured the character’s boundless enthusiasm for the idea of finding your other half along with plenty of humour (particular highlights include the mocking of Tory politicians or the EU Referendum) and enough emotional moments to ensure the play didn’t remain one-dimensional. Rabe’s physical movements worked in tandem with Williams’ script in order to make completely sure the scenarios of the play’s story were clearly imaginable.
Part of Operation Love Story’s charm lay in its simple, stripped back staging. The absence of any props or set pieces made it feel as if you were a child again, being told an exciting and impulsive story by a family member or close friend. This element of excitement and intrigue at where the story will go next is enhanced by Michael Corcoran’s lighting, which is coloured to correspond with different scenarios – when the story’s couple seem to be about to get together, it glows a romantic pink, and likewise when things aren’t going quite so well it goes for a darker, penetrating spotlight. The changes in lighting to reflect mood is necessary in ensuring the play’s messages are got across, and Corcoran’s design helps this to happen in subtle yet clear fashion.
Operation Love Story prompts interesting questions about the idea of true love – is there really ‘somebody out there for everyone’? Is finding your other half the true purpose of life? Or is it all a ploy created by a capitalist society in order to get you to buy more stuff? Whatever your take on the play, spending an hour with Jennifer William’s story is something you really will truly love.
Operation Love Story is playing the King’s Head Theatre until 31 July 2016. For more information and tickets, see the King’s Head Theatre website.