Love, Love, Love: Attempt at description, Act 3 [spoilers] #richardarmitage

Continued from the Act Two performance summary, here; or my editorial comment about Act Two, here.

Act Three is the shortest and the least funny act of the play, and the one with the most cultural or political freight. Arguably the staging and movements are much less significant here to how we see the play, but I will continue to give some indication of movement as well as noting what the audiences found (or did not find) funny. One big general change from the script versions I have: in the scripts, the family is meeting at Kenneth’s house at Rose’s request and Henry’s recent funeral, a few months earlier, is referenced. In the play I saw in New York City, however, the dialogue suggests that the family is meeting immediately after a memorial event for Henry. This change heightens the emotionality of moments of Act Three, as well as drawing both Sandra and Jamie’s behavior into clearer relief. It improves the play.

There’s a piece of this that I’ve forgotten the details of because it’s been a month and my memory is fading. At some point (although it’s not shown in the pictures available to us) the funeral urn with Henry’s remains move from the table, where they are originally placed, onto the couch.

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Curtain rises. Empty room — very nicely appointed. All signs of economic struggle (Act One) or artistic or cultural interest (Act Two) have been erased, and we have a well coordinated space representative of very nice taste.

Source.

Source. The only thing you can’t see in this picture is the right margin of the room, which has a cabinet with the old phonograph on it. This photo was taken after the play — during the act, the set is flooded with bright white light. It looks like an ad from a high-level “living” magazine.

There is an entrance / exit at far stage left, behind the cabinet, apparently the main entrance to the house, and the French doors at the rear center of the stage lead to the house’s garden (or as we’d say in the U.S., its yard) — a character who exits into the garden goes through the door that’s open in this picture and walks stage right until out of view. There’s also an exit at stage right rear where characters go when they need to get glasses.

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Rose (Zoe Kazan) enters from stage left off.

As the scene starts, “Sexy Chick” (the song had another name in the UK, I believe, but both scripts specify this title), is playing from about 0:50 (the first chorus) on the tablet device at the side table to stage left of the sofa. It sounds slightly too loud for the space. Rose looks around the room. In comparison to the previous act, she looks more slender in general and has better posture. Her offended hunch and forward-leaning stomp from Act Two are gone, replaced with a tendency to walk and stand leaning on her hips, and to put her hands in her pockets or hug herself as if she’s a little bit cold. Her hair is pulled all the way back into a bun — a ballet dancer hairdo. She’s wearing all black, ballet slippers, cropped pants with a loose cut at the hip, a black shirt and a black shrug over top. She’s carrying a big black shoulder bag. The items are separates, there are slightly different tones of black in them, and they look well-worn. It’s the kind of outfit one wears in order to look nondescript and inconspicuous; I’d have worn something like this to play in a pit band in high school musicals.

Rose is never going to be strikingly gorgeous, but she definitely qualities as pretty.

Rose is never going to be strikingly gorgeous, but she has a generous smile and she definitely qualifies as pretty.

Jamie (Ben Rosenfield) becomes visible through the French doors, having entered from rear stage right heading left. He’s wearing worn, baggy jeans, a dark colored hooded sweatshirt, dark athletic shoes, and a grey t-shirt. He opens the French door and then proceeds stage right. He’s holding a phone (script specifies iPhone) and tilting it around as he walks behind the sofa and loops around the front of the end table to stage right of the sofa but with his back to her. While he’s doing this, he doesn’t notice Rose; I think she waves at him but he is still intently focused on the phone. His attention to the device gets some scattered laughs. She shuts off the music and he looks up, startled. (Laughter.) Rose walks to stage right and they embrace; Jamie’s dialogue indicates he’s confused as to time of day (laughter) and Rose corrects him (laughter). I think I remember her asking him why he wasn’t there and him saying “not my thing” — text here slightly different from script. Jamie’s still playing when they disengage; laughter for his inarticulate description in his recommendation of the game to Rose. She sits down on the sofa toward stage left.

He’s completely immersed in the game, so imagine a young man talking and rotating his wrist and staring at his phone, wandering around the room just a bit as he utters the next few lines, which involve Rose trying to get his attention by catching up on his life. Audience laughs at him. She asks him about his “course” which he has abandoned because of the instructor — and reveals that he’s just like his father, “bored quickly” (p. 100). Under further questioning he indicates a plan to travel to Australia to see a Facebook friend (laughter), where it is “mental.” His stuttering could be due to his attention to his game, so we’re still laughing at his absorption; then we laugh at Rose’s repeated response of “Right” to his statements about Australia. The conversation grinds to a halt (titters). Rose raises the topic of what it’s like for her brother to live with her father after his retirement, supposing it must be annoying (laughter) but Jamie disagrees, noting that their father picks him up from the pub (laughter) and stutters through an explanation as the game gets a bit more demanding (laughter).

Rose, in frustration, leaning in a posture of entreaty from the sofa, asks Jamie to shut off the game (laughter). Jamie reacts that he’s not being rude — the audience laughs, apparently in recognition of this situation in their own lives, but it’s clear he’s sensitive on this point. He repeats this assertion and his desire that Rose not be annoyed several times, then shuts off the game. He sits down next to Rose. She offers him a cup of tea (this got a lot of laughs and I wonder if it got more in New York than it would in England, as it’s part of Americans’ received stereotypes about Brits — the preoccupation with tea).

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They pause, and Rose asks about Jamie’s earlier plans to get a flat. Laughter for Jamie’s explanation and Rose’s summary: “you don’t have to pay rent” (p. 102). We get a sense that the siblings do have a strong emotional bond with each other, or at least want to have one — or maybe it’s just the vestiges of the emotional camaraderie of the difficult adolescence they shared. This segment is not as inherently funny but Jamie and Rose gets laughs for outlining a situation that the audience is familiar with — easier, cheaper to live at home. Jamie gets laughs as well for his apparently cluelessness about his sister’s situation, which turns the topic to London. His stuttering and repetition of phrases grows though he’s stopped playing the game. Laughs for Jamie saying they’d been to London to see a play and Rose’s correction; laughs at Jamie’s astonishment at beer pricing in London and how rude people are there.

Then: a stumbling stone: Laughs when Rose asks Jamie who he came to London with and then laughter, but more gasps, when Jamie reveals he went with their dad. Rose is visibly bothered. (And Rose: I know exactly how this is, my heart bleeds for you.) Jame reacts to her emotion with repeated challenges to it, getting a few laughs but forcing Rose to insist she isn’t troubled. Laughs for Jamie’s statement that the part he liked of the musical was the interval. He’s standing now to Rose’s left in the space between the chair and the sofa. A bit of noise from off — Jamie exits stage left to get their father and while he’s gone, Rose rises, wanders a bit further into the living area, crossing in front of the sofa and heading to the rear of the stage, where she leans frontally against the rear wall (stage right of the French doors), raising her arms above her head. Her distress is obvious although we can’t see her face.

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This is from the curtain call but it gives you an idea of the hair style. He’s supposed to be 64, as is Sandra, in this scene, which takes place in 2011.

Kenneth (Richard Armitage) enters from stage left (the outside entrance to the house — different than stage directions). He has on a black suit and loafers. His hair is brushed back from his face, gelled in place, and streaked with grey. Note that almost all of the stage caps from Act Three have him wearing an olive green cardigan, but by the time I had seen the play he was no longer wearing it; after he takes off his suit jacket, he’s wearing a white dress shirt and black tie.

[Editorial comment: Armitage in no way appears to be in his early sixties — even if younger retirees these days are looking more youthful than they would have a generation ago. This is his weakest act as a performer, in part because it’s simply not possible to believe that he’s sixty. He displays some identifiable movements that transmit the idea of age, and he has the beginnings of an osteoporotic crouch at times, but he hasn’t developed a range of physical behaviors for every moment in anyway comparable to the ones he displayed in Act One. The main thing he lacks, from my perspective, is the cautiousness of the way that older people move — who know that their bodies may not simply obey their every command in the way that they used to.]

As he enters (Jamie follows him, eventually), Rose sees him across the room. She turns away from the wall and moves toward him. He has a large white drawstring sack in his hand. He sees her and puts the bag down on the sofa. K: “My favourite daughter.” R: “Your only daughter” (p. 104). An old joke but a reliable one — huge laughter. He describes her with a metaphor, with typical “dad” obliviousness; she corrects him, more laughter.

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They move to in front of the sofa. Kenneth takes off his jacket and puts it on the back. He asks her about the train from London (and following the pattern from Act Two in which he knows nothing about her life), learns that she sold her car.

K: "You didn't want to drive?"

K: “You didn’t want to drive?”

R: "Got rid of my car ... Ages ago."

R: “Got rid of my car … Ages ago.”

Laughter at the cluelessness of a father, just like in Act Two. When she affirms the train was all right, he states he “can’t stand them these days.” This would be such a typical thing to say in Germany at least (“I used to take the train all the time but I can’t stand them anymore, they’re unreliable, etc., etc., etc.”) that I laughed. Limited intelligibility of this joke to a New York audience, I’m guessing. Insert line here (not in script) asking how Rose got to the house; she took a taxi. Kenneth suggests she should have waited for him; she wanted to get out of the way; he states that he had to say goodbye to everyone. He takes a moment, removes a rather large funeral urn from the bag, and looks at it for a moment.

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He turns and puts the urn on the side table, dropping the bag behind the table. They all look at it for a second. (I think at this point there’s a script addition, where Rose asks Kenneth if he hadn’t discussed with Henry what to do with his remains. Kenneth says they hadn’t talked about it. The effect is to suggest that Kenneth was out of touch with his brother. I’ve forgotten exactly when it occurs — maybe it’s at a different point and someone else remembers.)

He offers her a drink (she declines, stating she’s got water with her — maybe she thinks she won’t be able to find anything non-alcoholic at home?) and Jamie goes out and brings back a bottle of wine in a chiller and glasses.

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Kenneth’s line, “we’re on the white wine” sounds slightly more salacious in the U.S. than in the UK (I know this is how Brits say this, but in the U.S. “on” is used for describing drug dependence in a sentence like this.) Laughter for his familiar appreciation of the alcohol, also for his assumption that Rose should know the person who got the wine for them (this should burn with future British audiences, because this kind of “booze cruise” won’t be possible when Brexit is complete). Kenneth takes a glass from Jamie, holds it up to the light, and notes that “you really can taste the difference.” This line is shortened from the script, which I think intends to make a joke about affordable wines one can buy from Sainsbury’s — no one would get this in the U.S. Jamie has a glass of wine as well.

"You really can taste the difference." Jamie and Kenneth partake simultaneously. Laughter.

“You really can taste the difference.” Jamie and Kenneth partake simultaneously. Laughter.

Kenneth tells them to sit down.

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Rose finally sets down her bag and takes a very defensive position — legs and arms crossed. Kenneth and Jamie seem very relaxed.

Jamie seems more or less oblivious to the next piece of the conversation. Kenneth leans back contentedly and tells Rose repeatedly that they’re looking forward to her announcement, as if he’s proud of her for some reason. Laughter each time. Rose is fidgeting, clearly nervous. Conversation turns to the fact that Kenneth hadn’t seen Sandra in a long time before the funeral. Here again, line changes to indicate that “Clive” (apparently her current husband) was not there and so Sandra was flirting outrageously with the Greek waiter. (Laughter — although it seems to me that the fact that the waiter is “Greek” is a cultural signal for how things have changed.) Laughter for Kenneth’s clearly admiring statement that Sandra is uncontrollable. Added lines here indicate Rose’s concern that Sandra would be driving, Kenneth’s pooh-poohing that — and then suddenly realizing that she will be driving (this is really funny, how the look materializes on Armitage’s face and the way his body jerks). Added line (paraphrasing) that “your mother will get here just fine, leaving a trail of destruction in her wake.” Big laughter. All of these comments about Sandra are delivered in the same tone as Act Two’s “that’s the woman I married,” if in a slightly more subdued fashion.

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Conversation moves on to Jamie, who’s got his job — “it’s good!” Rose says in a very artificial tone of voice. Kenneth inquires after Rose’s flat mate (moved out — laughter); learns Rose is sharing with a bloke (laughter); asks what Andrew thinks of that (laughter); ascertains that Paul “is really just some bloke” (laughter); asks if she’s happy with that and she denies it (laughter).

Kenneth notes that this living arrangement would not have been acceptable in his day — “would’ve been an outrage. A sin.” Laughter. Rose notes that she needs to pay rent (laughter) and then Kenneth makes an offer of help and Rose says “yeah.” This is an interesting moment because I think that in the ongoing laughter, and Jamie’s impending abrupt movement, most of what’s really dangerous about this exchange gets lost. (Maybe a British audience would have been more alert to the subtleties.) It really can’t be possible for someone who lived through the 80s as an adult (and has adult children in 2011) not to know that flat-sharing among opposite sex unmarrieds is standard (and I’d hypothesize it was accepted in the UK well before it became so in the U.S.). Kenneth makes his commentary without much prejudice — he notes that it would have been an outrage in the past, but does not seem to be outraged about it in the present. Still, bothering to make the comment at all suggests that the man who talked about sharing an apartment in Oxford in 1967 has become a bit of a reactionary. As with a number of its political shadings throughout, the play doesn’t bring this matter forward very clearly.

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For no apparent reason (although we’re starting to see the pattern — any specter of negative emotion on the horizon makes him touchy), Jamie rises at this point, walks behind the sofa, extravagantly strips off the clothing on his upper body and walks through the French doors into the garden, extending his chest into the light and drawing his head back.

Rose — surprised — moves to take the seat Jamie’s abandoned. The next segment of the script reveals her concern about Jamie. Almost every line gets a laugh here — out of the contrast between Rose’s palpable discomfort and Kenneth’s ongoing insistence that everything’s fine.

K: "Leave him alone. He's happy."

K: “Leave him alone. He’s happy.”

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There’s a tense moment — and then Rose sort of squares her shoulders and asks, brightly, “How’s retirement?”

Kenneth rises and walks across the room to the wine chiller, where he tops up his glass facing away from Rose as he begins to answer: “I don’t know why I didn’t do it before.” (UK audiences would be aware in a way that U.S. audiences are not that UK pension law is changing and Kenneth belongs to the last years that would be allowed to retire and collect a full pension under very favorable terms of age; the pension law changed in 2011, the year this act takes place. Similarly, Kenneth refers to rental property income — this touches on a central political moment in England right now: the inability of young people to get on the property ladder because wealthy investors control the market and demand keeps prices high, which in turn keeps them renting longer.) He and Jamie cultivate the garden in the morning and drink in the afternoon / evening. Laughter. Just as he’s telling her what he’s making a year, he turns back in her direction, heading up stage toward the table with the urn on it. A moment of audience discomfort when Rose points out that this is three times what she’s making, even though she works all the time, and then laughter. As he’s standing near the urn, to stage right of the table, he says, “at least you’re doing what you want to do, aren’t you?”

Sandra at 64 (cap from curtain call photo).

Sandra at 64 (cap from curtain call photo).

Noise from off stage left (script says “doorbell” but I don’t clearly remember that). Kenneth takes his coat off the sofa and goes to the door. Rose stands and moves to far stage right forward, at the margin of the carpet. As she does, we can hear Sandra going on penetrating tones, first about Kenneth’s landscape choices (laughter) and then some bickering about “you always” (over each other speech; laughter).

Then the topic turns to Rose — and the penetrating tone of a second previous becomes directly indiscreet. Sandra wants to know if Rose is present; Kenneth warns that she’s “in a mood” (laughter — here we’re back to the question of abusive laughter, given that Rose hasn’t done anything to indicate displeasure); Sandra makes a sarcastic statement about how she looks forward to dealing with moods (laughter); Kenneth warns her to be careful (more laughter).

Rose can clearly overhear this exchange, and her posture becomes increasingly tense. This exchange demonstrates my point about how if the comedy here is supposed to work, the play has to be delivered so quickly that we can’t stop to think deeply about our moral or emotional commitments. Rose is clearly suffering (just as she was in Act Two), and has done nothing to merit audience ridicule at this point, and yet the audience keeps laughing at Sandra.

Sandra then enters from stage left rear, followed by Kenneth, and she looks fantastic, a very young 64. She’s still navigating expertly on those demanding heels, and she has a lace black dress that shows her silhouette (which is still in fantastic shape) to every advantage. She has a professional woman’s haircut and trendy blocky glasses. The contrast between the dress and her skin is fabulous.

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Sandra expresses an ebullient affection for her daughter that appears to contradict what we’ve all overheard her saying. And immediately, central stage, facing each other, they step onto the wrong foot with each other. (And I found myself thinking — how often have I found myself in this conversation?). Note Rose’s postures throughout — her closed off responses to Sandra’s flashy “it’s all about me” exuberance.

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S: […] You look healthy.

R: What does that mean? [laughter]

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S: Healthy. Healthy. Not ill. Healthy. [laughter] What do you think it means? [laughter]

R: Fat? [bigger laughter]

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S: Don’t be silly you’re not fat, why haven’t you got a drink? [laughter]

R: I don’t want one. [laughter]

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S: Diet. [laughter]

R: No.

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S: Pregnant? [bigger laughter]

R: No.

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S: Because you’ve called us all together to tell us something and now you’re not drinking. [laughter]

R: I’m not pregnant. [bigger laughter]

S: You’re sure? [laughter]

R: Mum–

S: I was convinced that was what this was about, well never mind, I know I could do with a drink. [biggest laughter]

[Mike Bartlett, Love, Love, Love (London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015), pp. 111-112. Italics mine.]

Kenneth has been observing all this from rear stage left, but he responds obediently to the demand for wine, even as Sandra gets laughs for insulting his taste in that and praising his taste in women and then in music. He crosses behind the sofa over to stage right (I think he disappears briefly to get a glass, but don’t remember exactly) and then goes to the cabinet where the wine is and he pours Sandra a glass.

Sandra suggests they sit down, and they do, on the sofa, with Sandra at stage left and Rose at stage right. Rose makes a visible effort to try again, with the same bright tone she used earlier when praising Jamie, now thanking Sandra for coming to a Christmas performance and asking about Clive’s health. Sandra probably gets the biggest laughs in Act Three so far when she admits that despite his poor health, she plies Clive with various kinds of alcohol and “it does the trick” (p. 113). Uproarious laughter. In mentioning Islay whiskey she takes the opportunity to nudge Kenneth about visiting — Kenneth comes over to the rear of the sofa to give her the glass and this is the only time I really notice that Armitage is making an attempt to walk like an old man, a sort of stereotypical bent over walking to extend the glass to Sandra. The ensuing dialogue serves to establish (amid laughter) that Kenneth has split from his most recent girlfriend. Sandra asks why and Kenneth shrugs elaborately — to laughs.

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Next: jokes about Facebook — Kenneth doesn’t understand “poking.” There’s a double entendre there, at least in the U.S., but this probably flies past the audience — many don’t use FB, but even for those who do, “poking” isn’t something we do much anymore.

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Rose has deleted her account — but Sandra loves FB and uses it to flirt because Clive won’t go near a computer. Laughter.

 Sandra continues the Sandra show, apparently oblivious to her daughter’s subdued posture, or perhaps aware and not wanting to go there. Her gestures, posture, and speech are broad, firm and loud, and she garners laughs for her comments about Kenneth’s wine not being bad. Then she asks where Jamie is, and is told sunbathing. Kenneth offers to get him, but Sandra says “No don’t disturb him wouldn’t get any sense out of him anyway, away with the fairies, see him later” (p. 114). This is breathtakingly cruel, I find — I took a big inward gasp when I heard her say it, and Rose seemed to cringe as well — but the audience laughed.

Sandra has now decided she wishes to begin the conversation, so she steers them in that direction. Rose wants Kenneth to sit down, and he moves from behind the sofa toward the chair at stage left. He picks up the white bag on the drawer and places it in the cabinet holding the record player, stage left. It feels like stalling. Sandra takes the opportunity to make fun of Kenneth’s attention span (laughs) but he agrees with her, still standing next to the chair at stage left and presenting a blissed-out face as he says “Freedom!” (laughs). Sandra tells Rose how she feels (laughs), forcing Rose to insist that she’s not annoyed (laughs). Sandra continues to win every status conflict she’s ever involved in but also to find status conflicts where there are none.

Kenneth sits down at stage left and — in order to try to calm Sandra down — announces it boldly. Laughter. First, however, Sandra must maintain her control over the situation and she gets laughs for telling Rose she’s not patronizing her when she is, and insisting that she’s listening to Rose when she isn’t.

R: “I want you to buy me a house” (p. 116). Kenneth and Sandra respond by laughing. Importantly: the audience also laughs and gasps extravagantly. Is this abusive?

The tension makes it impossible or them to stay in this grouping. Kenneth notes that she has a house; Rose responds that she’s renting (laughter). Rose stands up to move behind the sofa, putting it between her and her parents. Sandra, in turn, rises from the sofa and walks across the stage to the wine chiller and tops her glass up. She then sits in the chair at stage right, so that she, Rose and Kenneth are in a rough triangle to each other.

“One or two things have gone wrong,” Rose tells us, in a shaky voice, through the laughter of the audience at Kenneth and Sandra’s statements that something might be wrong. As they agree to listen, she orders them, in tones reminiscent of Act Two, not to get drunk.

R: Don’t get drunk [laughter, as we know quite well how this family works]

S: I’ve only just arrived. [laughter] Look as I said we’re here for you, but we don’t need to be insulted. [laughter] Yes? We’re well past that. Aren’t we Ken? [laughter] We can do without. Yes? Let’s make that clear.

K: [gesturing meaningfully with his wine glass while glaring at Sandra] We won’t get drunk love. [laughter]

[Sandra takes a large, demonstrative swallow from the glass she’s just filled]

[Mike Bartlett, Love, Love, Love (London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015), pp. 111-112. Italics mine.]

Rose draws herself up to her full height to start to tell her story, which concerns her thirty-seventh birthday (but not before she can be interrupted by Sandra asking for affirmation that she got a birthday card — laughter — and Sandra’s competition to see if Kenneth sent a card — laughter). Rose tells her to shut up (laughter) and Sandra protests (some more laughter). At this point, even if Sandra can’t make herself notice it, they are really in full conflict with each other and if we weren’t laughing, we’d be horrified.

Rose resumes. She’d broken up with her boyfriend a few days before her party. Kenneth is chagrined; Rose gets laughter for pointing out that he didn’t ask and Sandra for pointing out that Rose doesn’t like to be asked. Rose tries to tell her parents how she was feeling — crying on her birthday — but Sandra interjects to ask if she was drinking gin (big laughter) and pointing out over Rose’s denial that gin can have that effect (laughter). Rose exposes her problem: thirty-seven, no assets, no relationship, no parent, to Sandra’s rejoinder that she’s doing what she wants to do, to which Rose says: “What I wanted at seventeen but now I’m nearly forty and I’ve got nothing” (p. 118).

This is all building to what can be seen as the biggest punch-line of Act Three, Rose’s lines: “[…] and I thought where did it go wrong? And walking down the street it hit me and the more I thought about it the more obvious it was. [pause] It’s your fault. All of it. [Laughter] I thought you should know [laughter]” (p. 118, italics mine). How fully the audience responds to that is heavily influenced by our views of these characters so far: laughter or gasps. (I’ll probably write a commentary on Act Three and say more about this at that point. For now, on with the description.) In any case, this is the summit of the laughter that Act Three reached.

The next segment presents Rose’s recital of her life as she sees it. This would be poignant and troubling if not for the constant interjections. The actual commentary is not funny, but the audience finds the meta-commentary hilarious. Rose gets laughs for telling her mother to listen / not be offended; Sandra, for blaming her “melodramatic streak” on her father and for commenting on Rose “really talking.” Kenneth and Sandra try to reassure her (“you weren’t to know”) but Rose isn’t having it and gets a huge laugh for her self assessment: “I was to know for a simple reason which is that I’m not very good” (pp. 119-120). Rose gains speed here in listing of troubles, and laughter is more scattered — for her insistence that her parents watched her waste her life, and very big laughs for her point that she is “stuck on the bottom fucking shelf.”

This is how they're positioned in this portion of Act Three.

This is how they’re positioned in this portion of Act Three.

Rose moves around the sofa, and Kenneth moves toward the wine, where he tops himself up as Rose continues. Rose is now standing stage left in front of the chair as she confronts her parents. Sandra is still seated and Kenneth is standing behind her. Again laughs for the metacommentary on the conversation from Sandra and Rose (are we getting to a point? Sorry to have wasted your time / I can think of better ways to spend my afternoon). Rose is now presenting her “version” of recent history. Her grandparents worked hard but, over her parents protests, (Rose): “what have you lot done? Climbed the ladder and broke it as you went” (p. 121). Sandra gets a laugh for asking more wine (and these interjections are necessary, arguably, so that the audience has time to process Rose’s story). Next Rose’s recital of the boomers’ political sins. (Editorial interjection: this is arguably the only point at which the play articulates any explicit political point that will be intelligible to a U.S. audience, and it’s dramatically ineffective to deposit all of it here, in one place.) Kenneth and Sandra protest that times have changed, and Rose agrees and uses this opportunity to get in a few more digs. Sandra’s response is caustic.

S: "What about our divorce you haven't mentioned that yet, I'd bring that in if I were you" (p. 121). HUGE laughter.

S: “What about our divorce you haven’t mentioned that yet, I’d bring that in if I were you” (p. 121). HUGE laughter.

Rose agrees that the divorce was a problem, especially for Jamie. Ken gets laughter for pointing out he’s now worried about Rose, and Sandra for pointing out that Rose is overly dramatic and, standing up and moving toward Rose, asking whether they will have lunch.

Rose now comes to her point, and this is probably the second-biggest punchline in Act Three: "My point is that I want you to buy me a house" (p. 122).

Rose now comes to her point, and this is probably the second-biggest punchline in Act Three: “My point is that I want you to buy me a house” (p. 122).

Loud combination of laughter and gasps, and for Sandra’s and Kenneth’s responses. Kenneth, the apparently more rational parent, points out to Rose that they would do almost anything for her, but that she made her own choices.

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K:”As you said you’re nearly forty. You’ve had opportunities. You’ve made choices” (p. 122).

When she responds with “but you always said,” Kenneth again gets huge laughs for his response.

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K: [wrinkling forehead in consternation] Why did you listen to us? We’re your parents. [laughter] Sandra and me, we never listened to a word our parents said. [laughter] Why the hell did you take any notice of what we told you? You’re supposed to rebel. [laughter] That’s what you’re supposed to do. [laughter]

S: [moving further toward Rose, so they are about two feet apart, facing each other with sides to the audience] I remember telling my mom to fuck off. [laughter] I was seventeen. [laughter][with relish] It was the best moment of my life. Love, you’ve never told me to fuck off have you? [laughter]

R: Yes. [laughter]

S: No. [laughter]

R: You don’t hear me. [laughter]

S: Well, then that’s the problem. [laughter] Isn’t it?

R: Mum?

S: Darling.

R: [with every ounce of power she has] Fuck off. [gasps, huge laughter]

[Mike Bartlett, Love, Love, Love (London: Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2015), pp. 122-123. Italics mine.]

Sandra sits down in the stage left corner of the sofa — well and truly told off for the moment. Kenneth pour himself some more wine and moves toward Sandra, standing in front of the stage right corner of the sofa, telling Rose that she can’t expect them to give up their security in order to buy her a house.

K: "It's your life, Rosie. It has to be" (p. 123).

K: “It’s your life, Rosie. It has to be” (p. 123).

Sandra is still silent.

R: "It's not fair." K: "Life isn't" (p. 123).

R: “It’s not fair.”
K: “Life isn’t … I’m surprised you don’t know that by now” (pp. 123-4).

And then Kenneth lights the fuse; he notes that Sandra is being awfully quiet (laughter) and suggests a glass of wine for Rose (laughter) and sets Sandra off.

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S: “At least your father and me, we never went crawling back to our parents” (p. 124). Laughter, gasps.

Sandra’s tone has now combined her previous excessive, almost bawdy / slapstick delivery with real outrage. (Editorial comment: For the first time, one suspects that Sandra is actually feeling something. I have next to no sympathy for her at all in this play, but if I were going to, her speech about her working life here would have been the place. It also bothers me, frankly, that this ends up being just another thing that Mike Bartlett chooses to parody in Act Three, but the possibility of feeling any actual empathy for Sandra’s position was probably burned to the grown long ago, at some point in Act Two.) Rosie responds with an actual description of her generation’s circumstances, to which Sandra replies that it’s not all about money. Rosie loses it again screaming that that’s what it is about — and gets a great deal of laughter just because she has regressed so completely to her adolescence. Rosie asks again about the house and gets a negative from Sandra with no regrets.

At this point, Jamie bursts back in through the French doors, unable to deal with the shouting. Rose says she’ll go back outside with him and he acquiesces, leaving again. Rose picks up her bag, and asks her father one more time. He gives her a long look — it’s a very painful moment, and a number of expressions flit across his face — before refusing her. He does seem regretful. She follows Jamie, exiting through the French doors toward stage right.

Rose’s departure offers Sandra an opportunity for a sort of closing soliloquy, which she delivers from the couch. It’s a list of all of the ways in which she has been disappointed by “her children,” which seems like a generational metaphor from the lofty talk of all of the careers they will embrace. She gets laughter for some elements of her description of them, though — particularly their laziness, their inability to read, work and think. Then she speaks again of how hard she’s worked.

[At some point, here, I believe, Henry’s urn migrates to the sofa and gets placed between them. Kenneth caresses it sometimes, as well. The pictures don’t show this.]

She gets the biggest laughs, though, when she asks Ken for another top-up, which she gets. When he brings her glass back, he sits down next to her on the sofa. Sandra says, in a way that one can’t help but read as ironic, “maybe it was me.” HUGE laughter. She continues: “I’ve got a mouth like a train, you know that, I’m a very confident person, maybe I was overbearing.” Laughter after each comma in that sentence; it seems the audience has decided to return to comic mode. Kenneth says “they weren’t unhappy growing up,” but after a moment Sandra says “Our daughter slit her wrists” (p. 126). Audience silence — this is the confirmation of what we suspected — we can’t possibly laugh at this. (Editorial comment: or can we? I suspect this is an second unacknowledged punchline of the play. More about that in the comment section on this act.) Kenneth says she’ll be all right and Sandra wonders, but they talk themselves out of it and drink some more wine, swallowing in unison.

Back to reliable comedy: Kenneth asks if Sandra has a cigarette. BIG laugh, maybe to get ourselves away from the uncomfortable discussion. Sandra says he doesn’t smoke, not for  years. Kenneth says, Well. Big laugh again. She gets out cigarettes and a lighter and hands them to him.

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He takes two, and lights them both at the same time, almost frantically.

She takes one.

She takes one.

He sucks the smoke in like a suffocating man.

He sucks the smoke in like a suffocating man.

And he looks really content.

And he looks really content.

The tempo of the act is slowing. Sandra asks what they should do, and Kenneth tells her Rose will be all right, she will come back, she always does. Sandra asks what happened to Kenneth’s girlfriend. He gets laughs for saying she wasn’t smart and Sandra gets laughs for saying she was fat. Kenneth changes the topic to Sandra: “You look great.” Sandra admits that she spends an hour exercising every day in her home gym and pool. Kenneth notes that he has a pool and could build a gym. Laughter. Sandra repeats the statement, laughing at it herself. Laughter. It’s clear they are moving back together emotionally. Kenneth suggests Sandra doesn’t like Clive. Laughter.

And then there’s a really emotional moment, of the kind the play has not yet really had. Kenneth says he wants to die with Sandra. A few laughs through this section, but Sandra admits that Kenneth “still stops her in her tracks.” Laughs for Sandra when she admits that Clive doesn’t dance becomes of his feet. Kenneth says: “Never stopped me.” Laughter. Sandra points out that Clive has sores on his feet. Laughter. Kenneth then suggests that they could travel the world together, which they had not done. He would sell the house to facilitate this. Sandra wonders how Jamie and Rose would manage. Kenneth points out that they worked hard for what they have.

He stands and walks to the phonograph, stage left. He finds a record and puts it on — it is “All You Need is Love.”

K: "You can dance to this."  S: "I'm married." K: "Thought you were the sort of girl who did what she wanted." S: "Ken--" (p. 131). Laughter throughout.

K: “You can dance to this.”
S: “I’m married.”
K: “Thought you were the sort of girl who did what she wanted.”
S: “Ken–” (p. 131). Laughter throughout.

K: "Henry said you were a goer."

K: “Henry said you were a goer.”

Sandra then pats the urn, which is sitting next to her on the sofa, and says, “Henry knew a good thing when he saw it.” She rises.

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He extends his hand.

They begin to dance, rotating around in a small circle and then kiss.

They begin to dance, rotating around in a small circle and then kiss.

Jamie comes in through the French doors, looks at them, is happy. (Stage directions here different from play performance.)

He sits down, smoking and enjoying the atmosphere.

He sits down, smoking and enjoying the atmosphere.

Then Rose comes in through the French doors as well. . She’s outraged. “Fuck’s sake, I thought you were divorced!” They pause for a moment in their dance, backs to the audience, in a sort of extended swing, and look at her. But they resume dancing.

The whole time they’re dancing, Kenneth is whispering the words to the song against Sandra’s hair.

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Rose watches for a bit, and then tells them she needs a ride back to the train station. They continue to dance, ignoring her, as she yells, “Dad! Mum!”

Curtain falls as the music plays on.

***

As it turns out, I have a bit more to say about this act critically, so there’ll be one final post in this series.

~ by Servetus on December 5, 2016.

9 Responses to “Love, Love, Love: Attempt at description, Act 3 [spoilers] #richardarmitage”

  1. […] On to Act Three, asap. Continues here. […]

  2. […] here (editorial comment) or here (performance […]

  3. I don’t have much to add, but I will reiterate that I didn’t think either of them looked like they were in their 60s. Amy Ryan continues to wear high heels, is very thin and not saggy, and really doesn’t carry herself any differently. Richard moves differently, but he doesn’t look like he is in his 60s. I thought he looked like he was in his 50s.

    The big laugh lines for my showing were the same as yours: (1) it’s your fault; and (2) you’re not supposed to listen to us, we’re your parents.

    I found this act much darker, and this was only partially mitigated by the witty dialog and seeing Kenneth and Sandra together again. I thought a lot about my own millennial children, and ways in which they are the same or different from Rose and Jamie. I think that is what was intended — end in a thought-provoking way.

    This was an excellent play. It is exactly the kind of thing I would be attracted to see even without Richard, and I am thrilled that I got the opportunity to see it.

    • I would say if the major takeaway from the play is “this play provoked thought,” (and a lot of people said that), then it is liable to exactly the charge that most of the critics who didn’t like it made in some shape or form: that it is facile.

      But more anon. I’m working on that post still.

    • Re: Amy, I was greatly amused that the height of her heels got progressively higher the older she became so by Act 3 she was on 4 inch platform stilettos. I guess it takes a lifetime of wearing heels to balance on toothpicks. 😉

      • I didn’t notice that they were higher in Act Three, I thought they were the same shoes. But I’ve never put a shoe remotely like those on my feet, so it’s not the kind of thing I look at 🙂

  4. […] from here (performance description) or here (previous editorial interjection — be aware of commentary […]

  5. […] that I’ve documented what I saw in general terms (Act One, Act Two [part one, part two], Act Three), I can drop my more personal impressions from the trip via my diary on single performances of […]

  6. […] than I could ever give! There are detailed insights into the play act by act from Serv here  (act 3 ) , here (act 2  ) and here (act 1 )   (which I can now finally read!) And you’ll also find in […]

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