The Verb ‘To Love’ is a universal love story. The writer wants to make it clear that, “Although the protagonists are gay, this is not a gay play as such; each and every one of you is a potential Simon or a Ben.” Out of every love story to be staged, this one seems to be the most normal in the sense that it is relatable and far from the idealistic Disney-style fairytale.
Simon (Martin Neely) finds a secluded spot on the grass – having removed the ‘Keep Off The Grass’ sign. It isn’t clear if he is talking to the audience or an imaginary date in front of him. Either way, the next hour is spent looking through the keyhole at Simon’s loves and losses. It seems a bit odd to have a one-ish man show that deals with the subject of relationships; as much as Simon is a likeable character, it is hard to find sympathy when the other characters are normally voiced by Simon too.
Other than Simon, the only other cast member on stage is the pianist (Gareth Bretherton) who sits at the piano, expertly hidden as part of the set, masquerading as a grassy hill full of bright flowers. About half way through the show, he brings Ben to life and helps the audience learn more about the relationship with a strong performance that only consists of facial expression and the words he sings as he continues to play. Together, the small cast are very convincing in their story and both succeed in making the characters relatable to audiences.
Despite a slightly depressing start to the show as Simon sings of an end to a twenty-three year relationship, things quickly turn to the humorous. The lyrics are witty but the music is quite standard and it is hard to tell when one song ends and another begins. A fantastic song, ‘Me & My Chlorophytum’, is one of the funniest songs in this show. The writer says, “It started off being about a spider plant and then it accidentally became a song about a – well, about my – broken relationship.” The anger and the comedy behind this song make it particularly memorable.
Although the story and the actors are absolutely fantastic, the story does miss some action. The show is physically fairly static and nothing moves on except the storyline.
Nevertheless, it is lovely to see a show about real relationships and their highs and lows. The story of love, loss and reconciliation will hit home with a lot of audiences.
The Verb ‘To Love’ is playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 23 May. For more information and tickets, see the Old Red Lion Theatre website. Photo by Claire Bilyard.