Ludus: Playful Love

Theatre Broad brings their touring production of Ludus – Playful Love to Edinburgh, an intriguing double bill of plays by Clifford Bax. The two plays performed; Prelude and Fugue and Square Pegs, explore the lives of four women and their experiences with love. While contrasting in both tone and style, the plays work together to present the themes of love, loss, lust and life. Delivered with the use of mime, music and the odd jazz number, LUDUS – Playful Love offers a sweet, entertaining evening of theatre.

Prelude and Fugue, set in 1930s England, focuses on the presentation of love and loss through two characters, Joan and Rosemary. Carol Metcalf, who directs and stars as Rosemary, exudes a quiet vulnerability as she sits for the majority of the play having her portrait painted by Katy-Louise Pritchett’s more buoyant Joan. Pritchett successfully delivers light comedic touches to convey her character’s hopeful naivety. In contrast, Metcalf confidently acts as the hurt voice of truth that brings Joan back to earth.

The static staging and Rhian Campbell’s natural lighting design removes any distractions from the audience, drawing their focus in. This allows for a relationship to build between audience and actor, however, the still positions sometimes limit Metcalf and Pritchett’s otherwise strong performances. In the same vein, the extensive use of music is a mixed blessing. The inclusion of Bach’s piano piece of the same name echoes Metcalf and Pritchett’s depictions of an individual’s vulnerability in love. However, the interludes draw out moments between Joan and Rosemary to the point of stilting the play’s rising tension. A shared secret is revealed through asides to the audience, yet its significance is dampened by the long breaks in dialogue. As a result, the resolution did not deliver the emotional impact it could have.

The second play, Square Pegs, is wildly different – more of a free and humorous tale of lust and life. Hilda, an exuberant young woman from 20th century England, meets Gioconda, a more practical woman from 16th century Venice, at Merlin’s Gate where time can be manipulated. David Reid-Kay’s technical direction and Campbell’s lighting and sound design shine through in the play’s opening; lights intensify as a swirling soundscape travels through a dramatic history of liberation and feminism. Quotes from Martin Luther King Jr, Emma Watson and exerts of Sarah Kay’s poetry combine in the play’s powerful opening.

Kerrie Leanne Sellick charms the audience with her performance as Hilda, creating a playful tone through vibrant characterisation and Laura Johnston-Scott’s energetic choreography. Lara Fabiani’s delightful entrance as Gioconda explains her love of the 20th century, interacting with the audience during a performance of ‘All That Jazz’, complete with top hat. Metcalf’s direction creates an easy, balanced dynamic between the two characters. Square Pegs does not take itself too seriously, Bax’s use of rhyming dialogue emphasises the easy fun of its premise. Fabiani’s subtle reactions to Sellick’s energy maintains the comedy as the two characters both act out how they wish to be wooed by their lovers, each envious of the other as they both believe themselves to be born in the wrong time. The tone changes naturally as the play concludes with Hilda and Gioconda addressing the audience directly, leaving them to contemplate the consistency of love in a changing world.

‘LUDUS – Playful Love’ celebrates the trials and tribulations of love. While some elements did not entirely land, the strong cast performances, technical design and direction came together for an unexpected, joyful production.   

Ludus: Playful Love

14th September, Run ended

The Studio, Edinburgh, Capital Theatres

Image: David Sellick

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