The two protagonists are named ‘Him’ and ‘Her’, offering the audience the concept that these characters could be anyone and everyone. They could even be you. And this is what the world might look like if the rapid decline of democracy and human rights continues.
Abigail Weinstock (Her/Baba), Tom Mothersdale (Him/Man) in Love and Other Acts of Violence, Donmar Warehouse. Photo: Helen Murray
As their relationship comes to a fiercely poetical end, the third and final act of the play is completely unexpected, if somewhat clunky. With a 1918 kitchen-living room lowered from the ceiling on chains, we are transported to Lemberg, a city in Western Ukraine, where a horrific (and historically accurate) pogrom is taking place against the Jews who have neither sided with the Ukrainians nor the Poles on who should rule this city. We meet Baba, 'Her's grandmother, as she witnesses the murder of her family. ‘Him’ becomes a Polish child-killing soldier who makes Baba beg for her life, but we know from ‘Her’s previous recounting that her grandmother will make it out alive.
The cycles of history, racism, politics and the threat of violence come full circle, but there is something missing. The sum of the parts does not equal a whole. These stories of intergenerational trauma have been spliced together but it does not offer a satisfying ending.
There are moments of lightness, supported playfully by jokes between the lovers, mostly at the other’s expense. But overall, the play is weighed down by its gruelling content that at times alienates, even though the audience are witnessing the harrowing decline of two people’s lives.
Abigail Weinstock (Her/Baba), Tom Mothersdale (Him/Man) in Love and Other Acts of Violence. Photo: Helen Murray
High-end theatre regular Tom Mothersdale plays ‘Him’. Straight out of drama school Abigail Weinstock plays ‘Her’. Both try their best, but ‘Him’ is incredibly obnoxious, both in content and form, wriggling and fidgeting at every opportunity. In contrast, ‘Her’ feels limp and dead behind the eyes. Neither have been written as particularly likeable characters, and although the actors have tried to imbue life into them, it hasn’t quite worked. Nor does their chemistry.
The highlight of the show comes from set designer Basia Bińkowska. But you know there is a problem when the most dramatic action on stage is a set change. To be fair, it is surprising and spectacular, but there is an inherent issue when the story and acting can’t live up to a platform descending from the ceiling.
|What||Love and Other Acts of Violence, Donmar Warehouse review|
|Where||Donmar Warehouse, 41 Earlham Street, Seven Dials, WC2H 9LX | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Covent Garden (underground)|
07 Oct 21 – 27 Nov 21, Performances at 19:30pm with additional 2:30pm matinees
|Price||£10 - £45|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|