Abi Morgan is a most talented, prolific scriptwriter for stage and screen including “The Hour”, the 1950s newsroom drama series, “The Iron Lady” starring Meryl Streep, and the play, 27, about the cloistered world of ageing nuns in a convent.
The starting point for ”Lovesong” was inspired by the dreamlike mood of “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T. S. Eliot. Written a century ago when Elliot was just 22, this eloquent poem reveals the private thoughts of a middle-aged man, desperate to find a woman to love. He is disillusioned by his dull social life, which he has “measured out in coffee spoons.”
In Morgan’s one act play, through a series of interlinked, time travel scenes, we observe the same couple in scattered moments from the start of their marriage to a key event forty years later.
The stage setting is their home - kitchen, bedroom and garden. Thick Autumn leaves with a few windfall peaches carpet the ground, reflecting the passing of the seasons. A backdrop screen displays fragments of photographs, a murmuration of starlings in flight, people and places – each adding to the jigsaw of memories.
The newly weds, William and Margaret are madly in love with the idea of romance and togetherness, forever. As their ghostly, young figures embrace in the shadows, 60-something Maggie sits at the kitchen table, taking pain killers to ease the signs of old age; she and Billy reminisce the good times, friends and summer parties, while he dares not think of a bleak future ahead.
We follow their gentle, bittersweet journey, capturing the ups and downs, joy and regret, fears and failures of their love affair, past and present. Pace and movement is gracefully choreographed - on the whole: a graphic scene where all four characters tumble together in the matrimonial bed simply destroys the essence of the dual narrative.
Through poetic dialogue, music, film and photography, this is a mellifluous, melancholic dance of time, capturing the rocky road of high emotions across a forty year marriage.
Don’t expect action-packed drama. As Abi explains, she focused on understanding life and times with her family to express the heart of the matter:
“I love the great moments of tragedy and the great moments of happiness, but most of the time it’s mushed together with the metronome of domesticity and just the day-to-day grind of life.”
“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea."
The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock - T.S. Eliot.
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow 7 - 11 February, 2012
Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, 15 - 18 February, 2012