Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett, Paines Plough, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, April 19-21

Love, Love, Love by Mike Bartlett, Paines Plough, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, April 19-21

All you need is love... or is it? This sharply satirical comedy-drama from touring company Paines Plough takes a look at the ”love generation” of the 1960s, and show how it all goes sour for one couple.

Lisa Jackson, currently starring in Channel 4’s new sitcom Campus, dominates as the impossibly posh and self-obsessed Sandra, with more than a hint of Absolutely Fabulous’s Edina about her characterisation at times. However, the satire here is rather sharper and more bitter than in AbFab.

Ben Addis has to age up alongside her as Ken, who goes from preening student to middle-aged businessman to retirement in a couple of hours. James Barrett and Rosie Wyatt also cover a wide age range as the couple’s children, while Simon Darwen is excellent as Ken’s slightly grim older brother Henry.

The action unfolds over three long scenes, each set in a different era, ranging from the summer of 1967 right up to the present day.

Each section is laced with music from that era. Often the dialogue is very funny and snappy, and there are also some hilarious mime scenes, especially the opening couple of minutes with a slobbish Ken alone in his brother’s flat.

To start with we see the couple’s first meeting , on the night that the Beatles first perform All You Need Is Love on live TV. The 19-year-old Oxford students firmly believe that the world is changing and they want a piece of everything. International travel, pot smoking and free love are all firmly on their agenda.

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However, in the second act, set in 1990, things are starting to fall apart. Ken and Sandra are discovering that everything has a price after all, as their disintegrating marriage affects their children.

And, in the final act, set in 2011, daughter Rosie confronts them with their selfishness and the damage they have done, along with the rest of their generation.

I’d have to say this last section seems rather weaker than the rest of the play to me, as the dialogue doesn’t ring so true here and there are too many unnecessary references to the internet, mobile phones etc. But the earlier two acts are very sharp and well-observed, and the audience at the New Wolsey clearly loved the show.