Plays: This Thing Called Love and Mercy

This Thing Called Love

Starting a relationship later in life - and deciding how it will progress - bring their own anxieties and challenges, as Maggie and Jack discover in this sensitive and entertaining play.

This Things Called Love follows Maggie (Felicity Dean) and Jack (Walter Van Dyk), both widowed, through the ups and downs of their relationship, beginning with their secret tryst in a hotel where they plan to consummate their relationship.

From the outset, we see the differences in their approach. Jack is earnest to cement the relationship, while Maggie is more cautious, having found a degree of freedom since being widowed.

The casting is superb, with both characters convincing and natural. Maggie is complex and expressive, torn between her love for Jack while fearing what the relationship might cost her. Jack is earnest, determined to do things properly yet often not getting in right, speaking and acting without thinking. The dialogue is often intense, and the physical movements and facial expressions part of this.

While the play has strong themes of grief and loss, it is also highly entertaining and even uplifting.

The sharp dialogue and the way the characters act and react to each other means you find yourself quickly warming then cooling to them in turn. Yet, even when you find a character exasperating, you still hope for the best for them.

This Thing Called Love is written by Shelly Silas and directed by Ben Caplan.

Mercy by Clare Whitehead

Regret and reflection on a life that might have been lived differently are central to of this sensitive play.

Helen (Virginia Stride) is newly widowed when Dave (Jack Klaff), the man who abandoned her years ago, reappears.

What might have been is brought into sharp focus, as she reflects on her marriage to Tony (Steve Hays), regretting that she did not reciprocate his love and care for her.

Flashbacks show the younger Helen (Joanna Walters) as she gets together with Anthony. In her fragile state, she appears little able to exert control over her life in the wake of Dave's departure letting the relationship happen to her.

So she ends up with the good man, rather than the one she still sees, decades later, as the right one. Dave, however, is insensitive and oafish, appearing to assume that he can walk back into Helen's life several decades on.

His return sparks much interest in Helen's village, especially from her "friends", village busybodies Rachel (Sarah Whitlock) and Bella (Margaret Ashley). With great verve and enthusiasm, they bring some welcome humour as they pry away while insisting they really only have Helen's best interests at heart.
While the play's focus is on regret and on what might have been, it also leaves the uncomfortable suggestion that a relationship based on love may not be the best one.

A sensitive play that moves the audience smoothly between raw emotion and laughter.

Mercy is written by Clare Whitehead and directed by Jake Murray.

This Thing Called Love and Mercy are part of the EverHopeFull Repertory Season, which looks at the very different lives of people in middle and old age through four new plays, a musical and independent shows.

The two other new plays are American Venus, based on the final years of silent movie star Louise Brooks, and The House, a black comedy of American suburban life.

The season runs until 27 September at 6 Frederick's Place, London EC2R 8AB and tickets are £10. The theatre is in a delightful listed building, with a friendly informal bar (you can take drinks into the theatre).

For more information see:

Tags: Ben Caplan, Clare Whitehead, Felicity Dean, Jack Klaff. Ever Hopeful, Jake Murray, Mercy, Shelly Silas, Virginia Stride, Walter Van Dyk

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