Review: Love and Information

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Definitely not the Schu-Box. Gwen King via Unsplash

Basically, a bunch of mini-plays in a trench coat disguised as one big play.

From March 16 to 19, the University of Regina Theatre Department performed Love and Information, a play by Caryl Churchill.

Love and Information is a series of mini-plays about people just trying to figure things out. Some of the mini plays were great, a lot were mediocre, and some were just not right. My favourite of the mini-plays was called “Mother” and was about two siblings who aren’t actually siblings. One of them is the mother of the other and they were raised as siblings because the mother had them so young. She was 13 and the father was 12. Jacey Jacobs did an incredible job as the younger character and expressing the emotions of a young person finding out something so lifechanging.

One of my least favourites was called “Schizophrenic.” It didn’t feel right. It gave the impression that people with schizophrenia are dangerous and have to be kept within mental hospitals, that they can’t function without medication (EIC note: and that medication will, in one step, “fix” things). Schizophrenia is not just the stereotype of voices telling someone to hurt someone else. That’s just not how it works, and is a harmful image to continue portraying.

Another one that just wasn’t quite right was called “Manic.” It didn’t even come close to encapsulating what a manic episode is or feels like. People who have manic episodes don’t always need to be hospitalized when they have an episode. They don’t always talk fast, or suddenly know a lot of information. The only part that felt correct was the desire to spend money impulsively.

The final piece that just didn’t quite feel right was “Depression,” the only topic that is repeated throughout Love and Information. It feels like it ignores a lot of important pieces of information about depression. Every single one, even in the script, is just someone saying something to someone else and the depressed person sitting there being unable to do anything. While yes, depression can make things like eating or going places very difficult, people with depression often end up forcing themselves to do these things because they feel they have to. It ignores things like the sobbing and the negative self-views that come with depression. 

A major problem I had with Love and Information is that I couldn’t connect with any of the characters. Since it’s organized as mini-plays with different characters, you never see the same character twice. In “Terminal,” when the person finds out they’re going to die, I just didn’t feel sad for them because I didn’t know who the character was. I didn’t know what their goals were or what they weren’t going to accomplish because they were dying. When something sad was happening, I just didn’t feel anything for the characters because I didn’t know them.

With this play having no gendered characters, you have the opportunity as director to make the story as gay as you want. Many of the scenes have couples in them and they could all be gay couples if you wanted them to be. This is, unfortunately, not what happened, but there were a handful of gay scenes. The ending scene was gay, and I’m very pleased that it was.

The two actors in that ending scene, Kaydence Banga and Katie Abramovic, were the standout performances of the entire show for me. They were both brilliant in every scene they were in and had amazing chemistry when they were in scenes together, especially the ending scene. Both are incredible actors and did a fantastic job.

In addition, I must give props to both the lighting team and the set designers. The lighting throughout the show was amazing. In a show like this where scenes can shift so suddenly across the stage, good lighting is important. The lighting was consistently where it was meant to be and allowed the audience to focus on the scene versus the actors leaving the set in the darkness for their next scene – and the set was beautiful. The white maze of blocks worked well for the transition from scene to scene across the set. The set is one of the most important aspects of a show and the set team did a great job.

Caryl Churchill, who wrote Love and Information, is from London. As a result, much of the language used in Love and Information was from the British vernacular, and this production didn’t change any of the British terms. It made some scenes feel very out of place and removed a sense of immersion. “Mother” was a fantastic mini-play, but when they said “Mum’s your nan,” it just felt out of place. Again, in “Grass,” they kept talking about taking the train to Brighton. Brighton feels so far away as compared to somewhere well known in Canada or the United States. And taking the train isn’t very common here in Saskatchewan, so hearing someone talk about taking the train versus a bus or something else felt out of place and broke immersion in this longer scene. In other scenes there were moments where characters discuss their “mates” or “fancying.” If this was the UK and these terms were being used, it would make sense, but it just didn’t with Canadian accents.

Another major complaint I had was the sound. The actors weren’t wearing microphones and it was hard to hear them at times. I was sitting in the middle and sometimes I just couldn’t hear what was happening. A lady sitting a few rows down from me, almost at the front, was using her hands to try and extend her ears closer to the stage so she could hear. I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I was sitting in the back trying to hear what was being said. And because there were no mics, the volume was inconsistent from scene to scene depending on who was in it and how loud they were projecting.

Overall, I have the same thoughts and feelings about Love and Information as I did about the last play the Theatre Department put on: the actors were fantastic, the set was beautiful, but the story was lacking and it took away from the whole experience.

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