He(art), a beautifully executed and thought provoking piece, set in modern day London, that centres around how our heart drives what we do and how we do it.
This is most definitely an ensemble piece (in its’ truest form) where all contributors have their part to play in helping this piece pack a punch with its audience. As we walk in to take our seats, with dim lighting and a red hue stage (beautifully understated lighting design by Euan Davies), we step gently into the world of love. We see all four characters already on stage, two sitting and two walking around a simple and symbolic set (strengthening design by Niall Phillips) that tantalises us with props which hang above the character’s heads, hinting at the shape of things to come. We know that it won’t be the props that are important but what the characters will do with them.
With excellently paced direction (Niall Phillips), that keeps us gripped to the story (by award nominee, Andrew Maddock), punctuated with well chosen love songs and a Johnny Cash play list (always a winner with me), we are presented with two very different duos.
We are introduced first to a young professional couple; Rhys, an ill-educated working class young man, who has yet to find his true calling (played by Jack Gogarty) and Alice, an educated privileged young woman, who shows the outward confidence of a person having found their true calling (played by Alex Reynolds). The couple are hoping to buy a piece of artwork for their flat, which she hopes, will be a symbol of togetherness; to cement their relationship.
‘Rose of my Heart’ by Johnny Cash introduces the other pair: siblings, working class, a violent father, an ill mother. Kev, the eldest (played by Shane Noone) on the run. Desperate to do something good after doing something bad, willing to give up love for love and Sam, the younger sibling (played by Flora Dawson). A doting sibling and child, whose gender is cleverly questioned until the last scene. Sweet, trusting and with a learning disability. We are introduced to them in the planning stage of their artwork heist, where you get the feeling things won’t go exactly to plan.
The 65 minute piece takes us back and forth between the two stories. With the themes of art and the heart woven into character and plot to create a synergy between the two stories. We wait for the cross over and connection between the stories, which comes quite late on, with the affectionate term ‘Wembley Warrior’. It’s only in the last scene that these stories (and characters) meet and we see in action what we do for love.
Packed with drama, at times a little too much as it stops us delving deeper when we might want to, however, there is much to be said for the clever writing of Andrew Maddock, who offers us, amongst others, a consideration of the synergy between art and porn and obvious accessibility of one and the inaccessibility of the other. The plot is expertly crafted and reveals at just the right time, leaving us with a well rounded story, and character’s that we have differing levels of affection for. The most affection (from me at least) is for Sam, who has, we guess, a learning disability, beautifully played by a very skilful and engaging Flora Dawson – Flora offers a performance that does exactly what love should do, it empathises and understands. Andrew Maddock, the writer runs workshops for young people with EBD. The company offers a ‘relaxed performance’ on Tuesdays, which I suspect will have influenced the forming of the character of Sam (not that all EBD young people have a learning disability of course). This play asks the audience to dig deep into our own empathy to find love for all our characters (well acted and very authentic from a strong cast).
This is a journey that keeps us hooked from start to finish, and that’s to the credit of the whole team, the cast, the writing, the direction, the set and the lighting. Great focussed direction, with skilled scripting that offers questions and answers in each scene. Building to a crescendo that offers us insight into love in the moment, what we do and why we do it
This piece of theatre is perfect for a winter’s night at the beginning of a year, when we all, to some degree are giving consideration to our own hearts, who we are, who we love and how we love. If you want to be entertained and probe your own thinking (or New Year’s resolutions) then be good to yourself (and your heart) and go and see He(Art).
Reviewed by Caitlin Morrow
On until 28th January book tickets HERE
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