Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Oldham Coliseum Company
September 16-October 2, 2021; 85min, no interval
Are we losing the art of subtlety? You might think so after watching what is a momentous occasion for many local theatregoers – the Coliseum’s first main-house show to a undistanced audience in 18 months.
From the title, Love n Stuff – admired in productions in London, New Zealand and other venues since 2013 – might sound like a romantic, unassuming two-hander that gently provokes laughs and leaves you a little misty-eyed with poignant affection.
No such luck: in fact it’s a broad, and in director Gitika Buttoo’s production a full-on, breathless and not-particularly-well delineated set of characters split between actors Komal Amin and Maanuv Thiara.
The plot, such as it is, is based on a peculiar premise. We are asked to believe that Mansoor and Bindi married and pretty much left their families behind 35 years ago to live in London, and have ploughed a romantic British furrow of their own ever since; as Vonnegut might have called it, an “island of two”. Except Mansoor now wants to leave England to go “home” to Delhi, with - or without - his beloved scientist wife.
The play follows the attempts of Bindi and their friends to get Mansoor to see sense and stay in the UK – though they aren’t fully aware of his real reason for wanting to go.
Set mainly in a Heathrow airport lounge, the couple chat, argue, reminisce and meet a variety of characters: airport policewoman, perfume salesgirl, drunk whose plane left hours ago, a couple of noisy children and most of all their friends and lodgers – Olympians (really) Janice and Akhbar; and appalling local teen, “Baggy”. Quite what a middle-aged scientist and her husband are doing with a teenage moron as a friend I couldn’t say. Oh, and Janice and Akhbar bring a couple of cats to the airport to help persuade Mansoor, who likes them, not to go. It’s a curious world these two live in, to be sure.
Gupta’s style is broad and fast, and that goes double for Buttoo’s direction; all frantic, in your face jokery that becomes a little annoying at times, since the two actors seem a generally likeable pair who aren’t really given time to get under the skin of the several characters they play, resorting instead to rapid-fire cliches and stereoypes.
I found this to be quite a problem, since at the bottom of the plot is a poignant tale about a couple whose love left all their religious, cultural and family ties behind for a solitary British life without the children he craved and she didn’t.
In the end, revelations are, well, revealed, and things turn out better than it seemed they might.
But why is this a distracting and not always very funny comedy, when there is so much heartbreak, pain and longing at the root of it?
It would have made a fine, subtle drama laced with resignation, fight and not a little anguish; instead it’s Carry On at the Airport.
Tickets and information here