Old Love by The Last Great Hunt at the Blue Room
Reviewed by: Freya Parr
Image credit: Jamie Breen
The Last Great Hunt delivers another stellar acting performance in the form of their newest play Old Love, performed at the lovely Blue Room Theatre. Questioning our notions of romance, age, and social expectations of relationships, this great little piece left me feeling not only sufficiently entertained, but also with some new views on the societal “taboos” of relationships.
Written by Chris Isaacs (Flood, Fag/Stag), Old Love involves a young man named Rob, who is smitten with his new partner Florence, who is seen to be the closest thing to the “perfect woman”. She is kind, honest, holds herself well, dresses well, speaks 4 languages, and is well-read and travelled. But she’s twice Rob’s age.
At a dinner party with Rob’s friends Gabby and Jim, the couple is ruthlessly judged, and in a hilarious cross-examination of Flo, we realise the pettiness of our views on age difference in relationships. The characterisation of Gabby as a highly strung manic woman, focussed entirely on societal appearance, is uncannily relatable, and the way she falls apart slowly throughout the performance is superb.
The set design and techniques used were incredibly effective. The use of the backstage as an element of the performance worked really well, and it gave the impression of the play being set in an entire house, rather than being restricted to just the one room. The way that the actors used the audience as a “mirror”, to analyse aspects of their appearance was just meta enough to be effective, but not too much to be pretentious. It also gave the impression that we, as an audience, are a reflection of the characters and the views they hold, so we too must also analyse the ways which we respond in situations like this.
The direction from Jeffrey Jay Fowler (who was an absolute dream in Fag/Stag) was bang on point. The portrayal of Gabby’s character was particularly effective, particularly in the moments when she withdrew from conversation to use her phone, despite Flo’s attempts to engage her. It was so relatable, and I’m sure we’ve all experienced that countless times! This effect made her seem all the more immature when compared to Florence, and ever since seeing the play, I have personally made a conscious effort to not even pick up my phone in social settings!
For me, Nicola Bartlett who played Florence absolutely stole the show. Her connection with Nick Maclaine, who played Jim, was palpable and entirely believable. Their time together felt like a heart-warming serene moment within the chaos of the rest of the play. Incidentally, her hairdo was utterly fabulous and if I can look that sassy and on point when I’m her age, I will be very contented lady.
I found Old Love to be simultaneously poignant yet incredibly easy to watch. In an age where we still maintain views about what a “typical relationship” should look like, it was a much-needed powerful response to societal norms. I left the theatre with a refreshed outlook on life, with an aim to recreate Flo’s mantra of focussing on life, for which love will inevitably follow.
Old Love is at The Blue Room until 2nd May.