Love and Information

Written by Caryl Churchill

Wednesday 25th to Saturday 28th February 2015

Directed by Jacquie Penrose

AuthorCaryl Churchill

Caryl Churchill (b 1938)

Caryl Churchill was born in London and grew up in the Lake District and in Montreal. She was educated at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read English. 'Downstairs', her first play, was written while she was still at university. It was first staged in 1958 and won an award at the Sunday Times National Union of Students Drama Festival. She wrote a number of plays for BBC radio and 'The Judge's Wife' was televised by the BBC in 1972. 'Owners', her first professional stage production, premiered at the Royal Court Theatre in London in the same year.

Churchill was Resident Dramatist at the Royal Court between 1974 and 1975 and spent much of the 70s and 80s working with the theatre groups Joint Stock and Monstrous Regiment. Her work during this period includes 'Cloud Nine'. She has won many writing awards during her career including an Olivier Award, several Susan Smith Blackburn Prizes, and multiple Obie and Evening Standard Awards.

PlayLove and Information

Someone sneezes. Someone can't get a signal. Someone shares a secret. Someone won't answer the door. Someone gets fired by email. Someone's not ready to talk. Someone is her brother's mother. Someone hates irrational numbers. Someone told the police. Someone got a message from the traffic light. Someone's never felt like this before... In this fast-moving kaleidoscope of a play, more than a hundred characters try to make sense of what they know.

Audition notes can be found here:Notes

The Bench Production

Love and Information poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977.

Cast

Cheryl Malam
Ingrid Corrigan
Robin Hall
Jessi Wilson
Ruth Prior
Julie Wood
Daisy Dawes
Claire Lyne
Melissa Hackney
Roger Wallsgrove
Paul Millington
Dan Finch
Stuart Reilly
Chris Vanstone
David Penrose
Neil Kendall

Crew

Director Jacquie Penrose
Producer Marion Ward
Stage Manager Maurice Lillie
Assistant Stage Managers Verity Butler, Tasmin Halford
Lighting Design Thomas Hall
Sound Design Jacquie Penrose
Lighting Operation Simon Walton
Sound Operation Beth Evans
Set Design Jacquie Penrose
Costumes Judith Smyth
Programme Derek Callam

Director's Notes

Early January - at the start of rehearsals:

"I was excited by the prospect of directing Love and Information as soon as I saw its first production at the Royal Court in 2012. It was not just the vivid 'slice of life' conveyed in a bustle of many scenes, but also the fact that this is an actor's piece in the sense that so many of the decisions about who these people are and what they want in our chaotic modern world are down to the actors in rehearsal. And so it has proved. Only two rehearsals in, but ideas are flowing from all the cast, helping to shape the work and bring it to life. What is as yet untested is how successful we will all be at keeping track of the mountain of information needed for over fifty scenes and more than one hundred characters. This is the first production I have done as director that requires quite so many charts, plans and lists. On the other hand, there is Caryl Churchill's wonderfully clear dialogue to keep us all on track. The scenes may be tiny but they are intensely vivid and a pleasure to work with."

Late January - approx. four weeks to opening night:

"We're now about half way through this thoroughly exciting project and it's beginning to take shape. The cast are doing a fine job of keeping track of the abundance of information - who they are, where they need to be next, what they might be wearing, what's their next line. But then isn't that what the play is about - an abundance of information that risks doing our collective heads in, crowding in on the love part?

The charts and lists bit seems to be paying off, although I'm looking forward to less note-taking and more watching and listening. One thing is certain - my respect for Caryl Churchill's script has grown. There is not a word out of place, and she uses punctuation like musical notation to control pace and tempo. Every punctuation mark - or absence of punctuation mark - needs careful attention. I'm reminded of the possibly apocryphal story of Samuel Beckett as writer/director snapping at actor Billy Whitelaw: 'I wrote a three dot pause and you have given me only two!' Such things really do matter."

Mid February - just 10 days to go:

"One more run-through to go before the get-in on Sunday. It's now down to the audience to decide whether the decisions we have made have worked. A crucial one was how to create the multiple locations across 63 scenes with the limited technical resources available to us. After all we can't truck or fly bits of scenery on and off - we can't even create full blackout. We certainly didn't want to slow things down while stage hands clump about shifting things. So we have largely avoided scenery altogether and relied on the vividness and clarity of the dialogue, supported by sound. We are also trying something else - instead of the normal convention of breaking the 'fourth wall' (the one between the audience and the stage) we've gone for the other three, letting some of the action take place outside the theatre space, heard but unseen. Does it work? We'll have to wait and see."

Jacquie Penrose


Reviews

RemotegoatJill Lawrie

An exploration into modern communication

For the first of their five 2015 productions the acclaimed Bench Theatre group are currently performing 'Love and Information' by the innovative and provocative playwright Caryl Churchill. A dramatist known for her re-invention and groundbreaking work often concerned with conflict and injustice. Bench have previously staged work by her namely 'Cloud Nine' (an exploration of sexual repression), 'Top Girls' (the role of women in contemporary society) and 'Seven Jewish Children' written in response to the Israeli military strike on Gaza.

This play is a kaleidoscope of fast moving sketches, over 100 characters feature played by just 16 versatile cast members! Churchill's influential writing surveys just how much we are unknowingly being bombarded by information. In this fast changing world of selfies, emails, erosion of privacy and virtual reality, we are in danger of being undermined by this continual and insatiable longing for facts, figures and statistics with the casualty being our increasing inability to nurture the personal approach.

I enjoyed Director Jacquie Penrose's imaginative opening blackout just the lit screens being visible as the cast meandered around the stage busily texting on their mobiles. This then gave way to a myriad of scenes, some rather too short to give emphasis to the point the sketchily drawn characters were making, but all slickly despatched. The enormous content of the play ranges from teenage tantrums and revelations to mathematical statistics and mental disorders and much more besides.

lthough the transitions were effectively executed it is hard not to find the play somewhat disjointed but a valiant effort was made by the whole cast and in particular Daisy Dawes, Melissa Hackney and Robin Hall with a standout performance coming from Neil Kendall.

An entertaining and thought provoking theatrical montage.

Review

Jill Lawrie, Remotegoat February 2015

Daily Echo and The EmsDavid Harris

Bench Rise to the Challenge

No one can accuse Havant's Bench Theatre group of being complacent in their choice of plays. Caryl Churchill's 2012 theatrical collage, Love and Information, bombards the audience with 63 different scenes and over 100 characters. It defies all theatrical conventions by having no leading characters and no plot. The experience of watching the play is very much like sitting in front of a TV and zapping the remote control from channel to channel. One occasionally lingers on something of interest for a couple of minutes before moving on, in some cases, very rapidly to other scenes.

The overall message of this play is that we live in a society dominated by too much information, yet we are often unwilling or unable to share important things with those that we love. No scene lasted more than a couple of minutes with the viewer observing tiny fragments of people's lives. Women discuss whether to share a secret, teenage girls discuss what they know about their favourite boy band star, men discuss the meaning of numbers and a young women confides to her younger sister that she is actually her mother. Although this play is unconventional in its structure it is not hard work to watch, unlike some modernist productions where virtually nothing happens.

This cannot have been an easy play to put on but the 16 amateur actors who appeared in the 100 different roles never once faltered in their performances. With no central character and the roles shared out fairly evenly between cast members it is difficult to single out any particular player for mention. It was a very minimal set with only a couple of tables and chairs on an otherwise bare stage. One left the theatre, not necessarily feeling entertained, but definitely challenged and given something to think about which was probably what Caryl Churchill intended when she wrote the play.

Bench Theatre are based at The Spring Arts Centre, Havant and have been around since 1969. Their next performances are the adult comedy, NSW by Lucy Kirkwood (23 April 2 May); another comedy, Ladies Down Under by Amanda Whittington (16-26 July) and Breaking the Code by Hugh Whitemore which is about Alan Turing and the deciphering of the Enigma code during the Second World War.

Review

David Harris, Daily Echo and The Ems, March 2015

Production Photographs