Raw theatre from award-winning writer delivers what’s left after love

The Half Life Of Love at the Devonshire Park Theatre SUS-160525-144652001
The Half Life Of Love at the Devonshire Park Theatre SUS-160525-144652001

Award-winning playwright Gail Louw has returned to the Devonshire Park Theatre with her latest play, The Half Life Of Love.

Following her hugely successful Blonde Poison, Shackleton’s Carpenter and Dwayne, all staged in Eastbourne in recent years and still being performed to acclaim around the world, this was an occasion not to be missed.

The title of the play comes from the writing of Dominican-born and American Pulitzer prize-winner, Junot Diaz, who wrote: “The half life of love is forever. It remains toxic, poisoning life long after love is over.”

This gives a clue to the complex subject of the play. As did two large Rorschach inkblots (of the type sometimes used in psychological testing to determine personality characteristics) which hung above the stage, bare except for two chairs, a table with glasses and several bottles.

It is the bachelor apartment of Alex, (Paul Moriarty), an ageing gay man apparently content with his solitary life, his wine and classical music.

Suddenly, late at night, his humdrum existence is jolted into reality by the arrival of Conor, (Laurence Bown), seventeen years old and previously known to Alex as the stepson of his former gay lover.

Five years have passed since they were last in contact. Conor tells about his life in the intervening years, a girlfriend ten years his senior, habitual use of drugs and his need for a cash handout.

Together they reminisce although it soon becomes clear that the violent break-up of the relationship between Alex and Conor’s stepfather was a bitter, abusive incident which has permanently scarred their memories.

Their conversation swings from easy nostalgia, triple ice creams for Conor then twelve years old, to violent hate when Alex crawled across the floor having been kicked in the head by his lover.

In the second scene, Alex receieves another late night visitor. This time from his former lover, Eamon (Jack Klaff). Expressing a resurgence of affection, the two men kiss passionately centre stage.

Such reconciliation, however, is short-lived as Eamon reveals he has no true feelings for Alex. This is reinforced when Conor returns to be confronted by both his stepfather and his former role-model.

Although Gail readily admits her play is based on a true-life relationship recounted by a gay man, her translation of human feelings about trust, power and abuse onto the stage demonstrates pitch-perfect mastery of contemporary dialogue.

Empathetically directed by Martin Dickinson, this is a play about three people, irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender, who suffer.

Each actor digs deep into his character and the results are massively believable. This is not only raw theatre but also reinforcement, as Alex realises, of the old saying, ‘you love the person you hate and hate the person you love’. Truly the half life of love. By Roger Paine.