Theatre review: Love Song, Dundee Rep

Ewan Donald plays Beane with Sarah Swire as Molly in Love Song

Ewan Donald plays Beane with Sarah Swire as Molly in Love Song

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Insanity, so the psychologist RD Laing told us, is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.

Love Song | Rating: **** | Dundee Rep

Although the idea has been with us since Laing’s 1960s heyday, it can rarely have been expressed so wittily, and with such beguiling theatrical flair, as in John Kolvenbach’s acclaimed 21st century comedy Love Song, first seen at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2006, and now given its Scottish premiere at Dundee Rep.

So in the same onstage studio space set up for last month’s production of Little Red And The Wolf – but this time with the audience on all four sides, and a central revolving platform on stage – visiting director Andrew Panton sends his five-strong ensemble cast into a flat spin of change and confusion, as midlife American professional couple Joan and Harry try to deal with Joan’s not-quite-normal brother Beane – always eccentric, rarely employed, and not at all interested in ordinary social niceties.

The problem is that the normally taciturn Beane has suddenly become both happy and voluble, thanks to the arrival in his life of a woman he calls Molly; and long before it becomes apparent that Molly’s presence is not quite what it seems, the sheer joyful power of this new relationship has sent fierce ripples of change through Joan and Harry’s lives, reminding them of what it means to be in love, and how little the daily battleground of office politics matters by comparison.

It has to be said that the pace and slickness of this two-hour drama is not helped by the strange creaking noises that emerge from the revolving stage, in the scenes where it is used to emphasise the story’s whirl of change; whether deliberate sound effect or just a failure with the oil-can, it’s distracting.

There is, though, no faulting the fast, witty, and emotionally intelligent performance delivered by Rep ensemble actors Emily Winter, Barrie Hunter and Ewan Donald as Joan, Harry and Beane, and by a stunning Sarah Swire, who not only composes the production’s lyrical and nerve-jangled score, but also delivers an unforgettable performance as the fierce, anarchic, beautiful and vulnerable Molly, a kind of Ariel of the affluent city and suburbs.

There’s plenty of fast talk, some wild physical comedy, and an elegant turn from young ensemble actor Ewan Somers as a waiter whose life is briefly touched by Beane’s exuberant freedom of thought.

And at the end, something has changed; although whether Beane will sink back into silence, or manage to sustain – for himself and others – his new sense of life’s boundless possibilities, remains to be seen.

• Until 23 April

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