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Review: Love And Other Acts Of Violence (Donmar Warehouse)

Another London venue has finally reopened after a long hiatus. The Donmar Warehouse has always been known for its varied but high quality productions, responsible for recent productions of City of Angels and Sweet Charity. Now, after a huge and swanky refurbishment, it returns with a new season of programming, starting with this new play from Cordelia Lynn.


On the surface, Love and Other Acts of Violence tells the story of a Jewish physicist and an activist poet of Polish descent who meet at a party - their relationship spirals as the play gives us glimpses of their time together - the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Of course, it goes much deeper than that - with themes of racism and inheritance through different cultures - the differences in their heritages aren't a big issue at first but slowly build to catastrophic levels. As the show unfolds, we realise the world has decended into chaos with hints at an almost apocalyptic time which takes the very worst moments of history to create a series of new horrors.



Snapshots of the relationship are interspersed by spoken word narrations which I assumed reference the poetry the male character is writing. This helps to signify the change in time. Slightly jarring at first and difficult to understand, this is a play that carries a great deal of depth to it and one where a large amount of patience is rewarded. Relatively strange sequences and bursts of dialogue that may not make sense on the surface are incredibly satisfying upon reflection after the play has revealed itself.


Predominantly a two hander between Tom Mothersdale and Abigail Weinstock, the two perfectly portray a couple inherently different yet somehow compatible. They exhibit remarkable chemistry and give a fantastic characterisation to two people with many layers, growing and adapting as more is revealed. Abigail particularly is sensational, remarkably making her professional debut - with authenticity in her emotions and an expressionate face that can break the coldest of hearts, she is a star in the making.



What keeps the action interesting throughout is the dialogue from writer Cordelia Lynn. Incredibly well written, it goes from being witty at times to utterly devastating at others with a particularly haunting monologue about a "belly full of corpses" providing some horrifying imagery.


The staging is deceptively minimalistic - a wooden square on a bed of soil separating the stage from the audience. Never boring though, thanks to the performances from the two leads, the stage reveals a brilliant twist as a second full set is revealed, itself full of its own secrets. This clever staging is a testament to what can be achieved in a small space.


As the main show reaches its conclusion, it is far from over as a scene change reveals itself to a 30 minute epilogue with Richard Katz joining the cast. The epilogue almost makes this feel like two separate plays joined together in a single act. However, the events of this epilogue help make the main play make sense, with themes of history repeating itself - cleverly played out with the repeated use of dialogue and events from the main play. Very different tonally to the main play, the scenes are extremely powerful and incredibly acted, allowing me to appreciate the hour that had come before the epilogue that much more.



Love and Other Acts of Violence is reminiscent of another one of Donmar Warehouse's recent productions, Constellations, in parts - though admittedly it doesn't quite reach the dizzying heights of that masterpiece. Like that play, the show uses different parts of timelines to tell the story of a couples relationship. Though this one doesn't delve into the multiverse, instead it uses history to hammer home its message. While the play looks at different times in our history, the themes still feel incredibly relevant to this day, with a moment about police brutality hitting particularly hard, knowing what has transpired in recent months and years.


If the Donmar Warehouse are known for the quality of their work, Love and Other Acts of Violence continues their phenomenal reputation with a moving piece of work, wonderfully acted. What would be a perfectly good play about a relationship is made all the more special from the twist that reveals itself as the epilogue, ensuring you come out of here with the knowledge you have just witnessed a wonderful and unique piece of theatre. Not an easy watch and not a light watch but an important one all the same.


★★★★


Love and Other Acts of Violence plays at the Donmar Warehouse until November 27th. Tickets are available from www.donmarwarehouse.com

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