UPDATED 9 September 2021: The following review dates from January 2019 and an earlier run of LOOP at London’s Lion & Unicorn Theatre. Tiny Room’s production has returned to tour this autumn to Coventry’s Albany Theatre on 9 September, Bristol’s Tobacco Factory on 6 November, Leicester’s Y Theatre on 10 November, and Brighton’s The Lantern Theatre on 16 November.
How happy are you – really? Most people at some point in their lives have experienced dissatisfaction, but often the ‘noise’ of life makes them temporarily forget. However, in the early hours of the morning, with nothing to distract from one’s thoughts, the feelings can be overwhelming… Written by Peter Mulligan, LOOP examines different philosophical outlooks one might have and how they ‘help’ (or not) with expectations of life.
Set in a quiet pub, we meet Chris, who contemplates his options at this juncture of his life. However, his ‘solitude’ is interrupted by the arrival of pub regular Steve and his ‘companion’ Kitty. Steve has his own reasons for bringing them together – an ‘opportunity’ that could potentially change all their lives. But as his enthusiasm escalates – spurred on by alcohol and a powdery ‘pick-me-up’ – we realise that the others have different ideas about what would be personally fulfilling.
Chris’ long-term goal is of a creative and searching nature – something that is meaningful to him. In response to this revelation, Kitty shoots down the merits of Chris’ quest and the search for ‘meaning’. For her, there are no ultimate answers or spiritual panaceas. The world is a messed up place and to a degree, accepts it for what it is.
Steve’s own reaction to Chris is of a much more volatile nature – not only disagreeing with him, but vehemently opposing his ‘aspirations’. But Steve’s antagonism towards Steve’s open thoughts belie a gnawing anger about areas of his life he has little control of. Enter Paul. As someone who’s been eavesdropping on the conversation, his arrival is met with rancour – his appearance automatically triggering automatic judgments on his appearance and demeanour. However his presence there – like the others – isn’t by chance and offers a point of view that is both grounded and born of loss.
Taken together, the opinions and experiences of the group represent a cross-section of society. More importantly, the fervour which each character states their case is persuasive, leaving it to the audience to decide who is ‘right’.
Running like a thread throughout the show is a discourse about the duality of ‘service’ and ‘reward’, and the way this is interpreted throughout society. How this relates to the mental health of young men, in particular, is central to the show – that and the importance of choice…