Edinburgh Fringe 2021
An engaging piece of observational theatre focusing on the vicissitudes of life under lockdown and its effects on relationships, love, loved ones and ultimately, self.
How was lockdown for you? That’s a question on many people’s lips right now as things stutter back to life following the easing of most the restrictions imposed, relaxed and then re-imposed as Covid brought normality to a shuddering halt some eighteen months ago.
Written and directed by Saskia Wesnigk-Wood, Love in the Time of Lockdown illustrates pandemic driven experiences we can all relate to through a series of vignettes portrayed with finesse and empathy by a quintet of actors, Claire Coull, Gillian Fischer, Martina Greenwood, Olivia Post and Jon Terry who deliver an array of characters in a thought provoking hour of acutely observational theatre.
The opening sketch, a doctor/patient duologue, majors on that ultimate emotional suppressant, the facemask, appropriate given you still need to wear the things indoors in Scotland, making it rather a challenge to see if your audience neighbour (socially distanced, of course) is connecting with what’s happening on the generously sized and creatively lighted Bedlam Theatre stage in theSpaceUK’s Surgeons’ Hall.
And developing a romantic relationship in lockdown took on a whole bundle of new challenges once entering someone else’s home was banned and the need to socially distance took hold – just ask Neil Fergusson, Matt Hancock and Gina Coladangelo – so imagine the dilemma facing the lawyer invited back by the new love of his life to her apartment following an appropriately distanced outdoor rendezvous, itself the outcome of many months whispering sweet nothings to each other over the ether.
Wesnigk-Wood’s writing is clever and varied, no more so than in a piece focused on the increased affinity many people found with their car as the attractions of public transport waned during the pandemic. This featured the engaging Samantha and Vinny, her anthropomorphic Vauxhall vehicle, in an absurdist, innuendo loaded and quite hilarious skit with an intriguing denouement.
Loneliness, privacy (principally the lack of it), the absence of physical contact, the inability to meet and socialise, to develop relationships and the damage caused to established relationships both short and long term are subtly peppered with dark, dry humour which allows the exploration of the physical and mental impact that the series of lockdowns in the UK (and elsewhere) has had on people.
As with all sketch based shows, some pieces hit the mark better than others. The pieces described above whacked the proverbial nail on the head but the sketch featuring a mental health call centre could have got its important message across more effectively by being shorter, or by the section featuring four actors in interwoven duologues being more tightly cued. Less can often mean more.
But the final sketch was both brilliantly written and consummately delivered, featuring a husband and wife team of – wait for it – actors furloughed as live theatre ground to a halt. The husband is forced to become a drama teacher – on Zoom of all things – just to make ends meet whilst his wife fantasises that she’s back on stage every night, the live audience marvelling at her portrayal of Lady M in The Scottish Play and the other leading Shakespearian ladies she’s been able to lose herself in over the years.
Distraught at their inability to do the things they both love, it takes all the husband’s persuasive powers to convince his good lady that this hiatus will come to an end one day and the critics will once again be showering her with rave reviews. As a summary of the performing arts industry over last eighteen months, that takes some beating.
This is a well written, staged and acted show that uses humour very creatively, both to expose the absurd events that have happened to which we can all relate and to point out the damage (physical and mental) resulting from the pandemic. Thought provoking and entertaining, this is a piece of theatre that has much to recommend it.