Tristan Bates Theatre, London – until 14 April 2018
Michelle Barnette’s blistering debut Love Me Now examines the way relationships between men and women have changed, explored through one woman’s casual two casual relationships.
Raising lots of questions about what casual dating really means and the very thin lines between love and casual sex, Michelle Barnette’s debut play is extremely perceptive about attitudes towards relationships and how we deal with them can actually highlight our insecurities and self-doubt.
Jamie Armitage’s production is gripping and intense throughout, drawing out authentic audience reactions – particularly when Barnette’s script highlight’s male attitudes towards feminism and stereotypical thoughts towards women as a whole. Everything is sharply formed and really packs a punch throughout – such as when the tension between A (Alistair Toovey) and B (Helena Wilson) threatens to overflow into violence.
What Barnette’s play does extremely well is give a vivid insight into the way in which even a casual relationship can suddenly become tangled and complicated as A and B’s ‘relationship’ develops. B (eventually) wants to be loved but A wants to keep more distance between them – a bit of a commitment-phobic in fact – it is moments like this that make the play completely heartbreaking to watch as well as relatable for anyone who simply wants the courage to be loved.
However, it does feel as though the play doesn’t quite get to the heart of why B is the way she is – what was her real trigger for treating sex so casually? What does she really want from either man? Although the audience gets to see how she tries to form a ‘normal’ relationship with C (Gianbruno Spena) which doesn’t quite work out as planned it doesn’t quite come to any conclusion on how she moves forward from there.
But the production does feature nicely formed performances that are gripping to watch throughout. Helena Wilson as the vulnerable ‘B’ is heartbreaking to watch as she tries to break away from the casual sex routine – when she confronts A about what is wrong with her it is painful to watch as she tears her self-confidence into shreds. Elsewhere, Alistair Toovey as ‘A’ gives a nicely balanced performance as a character who on the surface seems to want to help ‘B’ through her insecurities as a friend but soon a more vicious and cruel side emerges when he doesn’t get what he wants – which is very convincing. Gianbruno Spena as ‘C’ is a less formed character – but still produces a very frustrating and patronising personality that works well.
Overall, Love Me Now is a powerful and intense exploration of what the terms ‘relationship’ and ‘love’ means to people now. Heartbreaking and painful but well worth a watch.