A performance full of warm, fuzzy nostalgia, Loop tugs at your heartstrings using a killer soundtrack. It’s hard not to be carried along by the predictability of BoxLess Physical Theatre’s new play. It uses a combination of dialogue and stylised movement to pull the audience into a story of how music inspires and affects three generations of the same family,
As the audience take their seats, the characters are frozen on stage gazing at their respective, prized possessions: their music. Each character has a different form of music, from vinyl all the way to digital downloads on a laptop. This puts music front and centre even before the play’s beginning, and emphasises how much music will influence the lives of each character.
The transitions between different timelines are expertly and simply done, with seamless costume changes performed in the background onstage during another character’s monologue. Music typical of the different decades, such as The Beatles and the soundtrack from Back to the Future, keeping the audience ‘in the loop’ about which timeframe they are entering.
The physicality of the production is striking. The stage is almost bare, so movement is needed to create environments that the audience could easily recognise, be it stamping feet used to mime the trundling of a bus, or the cast forming a zombie-like procession across the stage, mimicking the monotonous London crowds who, as one character puts it, always look like they have someplace to be. It makes the monologues have a pulse; you don’t know where to look.
Lighting is used very effectively, especially when the grandson – in a wonderfully intense performance by James Demain – is mugged after being refused entry to a nightclub. The dimming of the lighting highlights the slow motion punches and gradual separation of the character from his possessions by the muggers. The moody lighting adds menace to the scene, giving the attackers faceless, unrecognisable forms, emphasising how blind the grandson is to the oncoming attack. This makes the assault more uncomfortable and more believable to the audience. Demain’s monologues are breathless; his eyes bore into the audience, and the fiery shame of his dad and place in life are communicated in his fidgety, restless mannerisms.
However, the stand out performance is Aaron Price’s portrayal of the son during the eighties. His nerdy, bumbling puppy-dog performance bursts at the seams through his portrayal of love for David Bowie’s anthems. The scene where he encounters a rebellious, acid-tongued girl (Emily Costello) has the best dialogue of the entire piece with the language perfectly conveying a very authentic portrayal of sweet, nervous first love (and awkward dance moves).
Aaron Price’s character ends up as a disgruntled father to a son that he does not understand. This estrangement between father and son is highlighted through clashes in musical taste; vinyl and Dubliners verses DJ mixes. When he was young, music was the father’s way of expressing his individuality and creativity, but as an old man, music paradoxically acts as an artistic barrier against his son. Music has evolved and left Price’s character behind, and highlights the disadvantages of growing old and becoming ‘stuck in a culture,’ and also, the difficulties in connecting with a different generation.
On the surface, Loop may provide a generous helping of schmaltz, but with the nuanced acting and commanding stage presence displayed by the cast, Loop’s cheesiness becomes palatable. It is a play that explores young ambition and hope of a better life, versus the comforts of family, and the environments that we know and love – a truly sweet treat of a production.
Underbelly Cowgate – Belly Button (Venue 61)
2nd to 26th August 2018
Image: BoxLess Physical Theatre