Love Lies Bleeding
Print Room Coronet, 28th November 2018
You probably now Don DeLillo as the US author of provocative, existential contemporary fiction such as White Noise, Libra and Underworld. Well he also writes plays. Five of them to date apparently. IMHO he shouldn’t. They have been compared to Beckett and Pinter. They’re not.
The Print Room under AD Anda Winters has set itself up as a purveyor of knotty, off beat theatre with a pronounced literary bent. This puts it at the more challenging end of the London theatrical entertainment spectrum but then again who wants to watch Bat Out Of Hell every day (or any day come to think of it). When the USP delivers, The Outsider or Babette’s Feast come to mind, it can match the best that the London fringe can offer. When it tries a little too hard then it can turn into a long evening, even in the surprisingly comfortable seats of this shabby chic auditorium.
Love Lies Bleeding was firmly in the latter camp I am afraid. Alex Macklin (Joe McGann no less) is a craggy American land artist now in a persistent vegetative state after a second stroke. His son Sean (Jack Wilkinson) and second wife Toinette (Josie Lawrence) come to visit him and his fourth wife Lin (Clara Indrani) who is caring for him out in his desert hideaway. They discuss whether to accelerate his death. There are a couple of flashbacks with Alex pre-stroke. Oh and an extended metaphor about amaranthus caudatas for you biologists. That’s it.
Whilst it succeeds in its aim of getting us to reflect on the meaning of life, its worth, the question of how life should end, what constitute mercy and the like, we have so much time, even in the 80 minutes or so running time, to chew on these questions that, frankly, the case for killing him off early becomes overwhelming. Hard to fault the acting of the cast, the directing of Jack McNamara, an advocate for DeLillo’s plays (who was the hand behind The Fisherman at the Arcola, which was the polar opposite in terms of dramatic momentum), the inventive set of Lily Arnold and the video work of Andrezj Goulding. But these are paper thin characters in a plot devoid of narrative given to meandering reminiscing and repetitive philosophising. It kicks off with an interesting premise, Alex describing a corpse on the subway, but the play then disappears into its own (dark) metaphysical tunnel. Bleak, wordy, “comedy” so black it isn’t even funny,
Not for me then. Mind you I wouldn’t mind staying in a beach house designed by Lily Arnold. Just not with these people.