L’any 1967, la cadena BBC emet “Our World”, el primer programa per via satèl·lit en viu de la història. Al món sencer, milions de persones podran bellugar el cap alhora al compàs d’“All you need is Love”. Com el Kenneth i la Sandra, dos joves i guapos somiadors que, com els Beatles, estan convençuts que tot és possible. L´únic que necessiten és amor. Amb el temps, però, el Kenneth i la Sandra deixaran de ser tan joves i tan guapos. Tindran fills i hipoteques. I un dia els fills es faran grans i passaran comptes amb el món que han heretat, un món que sembla ensorrar-se al compàs d’aquell “All you need is Love”. De debò que era amor, l’únic que necessitaven?
Constant shifts in perspective and awesome visuals and music dynamise this playful Catalan production of English playwright Mike Bartlett’s Love, Love, Love (2010), translated by Cristina Genebat and directed by Julio Manrique. The play's title is taken from the Beatles’ famous track of the 1960s.
The time-leaping play begins in 1967. Kenneth (a self-consciously suave David Selvas) is a 19-year-old Oxford University student with a working-class background (groovy) hanging out at the home of his older brother Henry (Marc Bosch). While Henry is stuffy and straight, Kenneth has gone full hippy, apparently enjoying the liberties that student life has to offer – books, records, weed and girls. When a self-expressive student at the same university called Sandra (a delightfully dangerous Laia Marull) shows up stoned, the incense intensifies. Forget Henry; Sandra and Kenneth get it on to Hendrix, and spontaneously pledge a life of adventure together.
Fast forward to 1990 and Kenneth and Sandra are now married with two teenagers, Jamie (Marc Bosch) and Rose (Clara de Ramon). By now, the parents have coolly flipped into the neoliberal brain-set, privatising everything for a fast profit, while the kids are already struggling to adapt to this new barren landscape. Jamie seems lost, until he gets the go ahead to loaf about for a lifetime; Rose also needs to chill out, and so is encouraged to be a violinist despite its precariousness as a career. Then Kenneth and Sandra have a spur of the moment announcement: they have decided to chuck the marriage in and try something new. After all, why not? Enjoy life!
The third part of the play is set in 2011. Kenneth and Sandra are in touch and getting along like a house on fire. The rewards of their booming businesses and pension schemes have made them individually healthy, wealthy and happy. Jamie, however, is entirely dependent on them. Rose finds herself at 37 with a curiously conservative array of expectations and what she calls “nothing to show for her life.” She confronts her parents and accuses them of destroying her future...
Bartlett is a master at poking at white middle class egotism through characters that nevertheless charm the audience, despite our knowing better. Here poor Rose is the petulant party pooper while narcissists Kenneth and Sandra cruise joyfully. We know which one we'd rather be. The crushing context is made clear: though it too seems seductive in Manrique's signature inter-scene montage that induced a strange sort-of nostalgia for the horrible bits of my childhood: archive images of the poll tax riots, the Royal drama, and grinning liar Tony Blair flicker by (of the era, if not chronologically) to Pulp’s 1994 singalong classic Do You Remember The First Time.
The play asks heavy questions that this production takes care to leave conspicuously hanging in the air: To what extent can we blame another for how our lives turn out? And at what point have our lives ‘turned out’ at all?
With a play about the passing of time, you can’t help but wonder about that last 12 years that take us from 2011 to 2023. Bartlett didn’t attempt to add another scene, of course (perhaps, after the three used in the title, the “loves” run out...) Instead he wrote other plays, such as Albion (2017), to explain how we got from Love Is All You Need – to Brexit.
Boomer-blaming is actually a thing. Baby boomers (born between 1945 and 1965) are often given the blame for Brexit as more apparently voted Leave than any other generational group. That means the same people that subsidised their lives with massive public borrowing, that enjoyed public utilities, salary pension schemes and free university education then set about abolishing and privatising all advantages for the younger generation, finally rejecting EU membership and culling Britain's future. Or did they...? As in all Bartlett’s brilliant and deceptively-simple plays, he leaves it complicated.