ABI Morgan’s play Lovesong, given its Dorset premiere by APS at Sherborne, is a poignant and clever example of why she is one of the most in-demand writers of the 21st century.
She wrote Lovesong at the same time her television series The Hour was on screen, and just before scripting The Iron Lady for Meryl Streep.
This four-hander has only two characters, played at different periods of their lives on the same stage, sometimes crossing each other in time. It’s the story of Margaret and William, Maggie and Billy, and it starts at the end.
Maggie (Bev Taylor-Wade) is dying, and wants to be in control of how and when she says goodbye to her lifelong companion Billy (Richard Culham). Childless, she worries about who will take on their house with its 28 windows, crammed full of memories.
Billy tries in vain to find ways to make her days less physically and mentally painful, but his own pre-grief makes his actions more and more awkward.
As they remember their meeting and their early lives together, their younger selves materialise in the form of William (Jack Evans) and Margaret (Lucy Rostron), deeply in love but fighting with the difficulties of living in a strange country where, increasingly, they are the only childless young couple.
Sylvie Lord directs with a keen eye for the subtle shifts in their relationship, the momentous events and the gentle and abiding power of their love.
While our courts are debating the issues of the “right to die” (so far not regarded as a Human Right, although the access to superfast broadband is!) this is a play that will find an echo in most of our lives.
Maggie is realistic about her prognosis, but has no intention of taking the Dignitas route, that tabloid-spotlit journey to Switzerland and onwards.
The play calls for extraordinary performances, and Morgan gives each of her quartet one huge speech. All the Sherborne cast carry theirs off with flying colours, but Jack Evans’ speech as an Englishman in America, copying the voices of his new ‘friends’, is a scene-stealer.
Director Sylvie writes in the programme about Billy facing a future without Maggie, but counting the sound of the pills as they drop into the plastic cup points to a different outcome. I fought back tears.
Thanks to APS for bringing a new play, and such a powerful one, to Sherborne for their spring production.