Delectable Love Bites
Leaving the West End to visitors, with their discounted tickets bought from a booth on the day, I headed to explore the budding south east branches of London’s theatreland. The density of actors on The Cut – the side street home to a major cultural institution like the Old Vic theatre, the more experimental Young Vic and a fringe theatre venue – is not unlike the density of bankers in the financial district.
On my way to my Friday night play, I had to walk past the Old Vic theatre. Crowds were gathering by the entrance, radiant in anticipation of their encounter with Kevin Spacey on stage. With my two tickets securely stored in my inner pocket, I dodged the elegantly-dressed audience about to applaud the Oscar winning actor, and headed a few meters away to the Calder Bookshop.
‘Love Bites’ will be running in this unpretentious theatre space until 13 November. The stage is the size of a two-seater, with the actors playing among leather-bound copies of Shakespeare’s plays and critical editions of Dante’s Divine Comedy. A showcase for new talents, ‘Love Bites’ is a series of five short plays written by young playwrights. They share the setting – a bar – and the theme, love being the common thread.
As if mirroring the one on stage, the bookstore is arranged to provide a bar at the entrance. As you sip your glass of wine, you will recognise the atmosphere framed by the plays all around you. ‘Love Bites’ is a celebration of the short form in writing. By watching the diversity of the results achieved within the constraints set for the exercise, the power of good writing emerges uncompromisingly. It only takes a couple of effective lines for a good playwright to create a well-rounded, perfectly formed and unforgettable character. Like an assignment in a creative writing course, love is declined by the five playwrights in ever new forms, with final twists that will surprise even consummate theatre goers.
The institution of social drinking becomes the point of view for an insight into lives and souls. The stories, although independent, contribute to an overall design. With its pithy portraits of arrogant bankers, inane sales people, struggling businesswomen and other various lost souls, the plays also mirror today’s London.
‘Love Bites’ is a long-standing project. Launched in November 2008, the first group of plays was set at a table in a restaurant, and the second one in a hotel room. If you end up missing your dose of ‘Love Bites’, you can contact producer/writer Ziella Bryars to join the group’s newsletter and wait for the next instalment. Will it be set on a bench? On a street corner? Or maybe in a car?
One thing is for sure. Given the humour, insight and emotional intensity of these plays, I can confidently predict it will not be long until this theatre group makes the transition from the independent bookshop to the institutional theatre across the street.