4 / 5
With a whole-hearted fight for love, and the striving to live better, an undercurrent of anger surges. Love Steals us from Loneliness resonates with me. I know girls who have lost more than their sunglasses down Rest Bay, if you get what I mean. And the boys who take girls down Rest Bay. Teens wholly obsessed, as well as desperately dismissing of their own sexuality. But, I also know what it feels like to be stuck in a town where you have to actively try to ‘live’ to be heard, or validated… or at least feel that way.
‘Are you enjoying?’ A pleasant, South Walian, fifty-something woman assailed us with, in the interval. My friend, Richard, and I smirked. ‘Yes,’ we are teenagers, and we know more than you think. ‘A lot of swearing.’ (I raised my eyebrows.) ‘I saw another play by the guy who wrote this! Ahh what was his name?’…’Gary Owen’ (I smiled.) ‘Ohh yeah, love, that’s the one. And we went to go and watch that one … Ohh, well I call it I-fe-jean-ia in Splott!’ ‘Ohh yeah, Ef-i-gen-ia in Splott. ‘That’s what my fancy friend calls it!’ ‘Yeah, it was great.’ I can almost imagine that this is, somewhat, an interaction that Gary Owen, in a nod to its obstructive nature could have seamlessly written – much better than how it actually happened. An illustration of youth’s cockiness, and an honest, Welsh admission of self. Together disastrous; already displayed in the infamous events that puts Bridgend ‘a known shit-hole’ on the map. But, instead he wrote Love Steals us from Loneliness – which is more entertainingly profound.
‘A strop off’ on a shit night out, steaming. It’s a Friday night in Bridgend littered by ‘Townies’ and ‘Valley Commandos’. Gary Owen’s perceptiveness to the backwards little town is unique, exposing and admiring its culture and people for all their defensive and insecurity. Owen offers a reflection of a society that challenges and adheres to everything we know it to be – I think that’s what theatre should be. Always close to home, in some respect. But why, I need ask, is this teenage obsession with love permeating through a text disputing its very significance and authenticity? Actually, it’s probably because of the imprisonment, self-deprecation, and the belief in our own insignificance that Bridgend, and South Wales alike, breeds. But, no one’s ever quick to discuss that. Act 2 is a disjointed outburst of spiting and spluttering and biting. Melancholic, life-affirming joy – like the sun’s rays landing on piles of shit. Love Steals us from Loneliness is a beautiful two-hander about survival.
‘I’m about to make a bold statement.’ Now, normally Richard refrains from any form of judgement, or any (highly – in my experience) critical response until, at least, we’ve reached the carpark. He’s got manners, like. ‘That woman,’ he says, ‘just gave the best performance I have ever seen in my entire life.’ Emma Jane Goodwin was exceptional. Exhaustingly fuelled, anguished and unapologetic. Mags is someone we know. She is a Bridgend mum – we know them. The whole cast were captivating. Headed by the striking Evelyn Campbell squatting for a wee, and the standards didn’t slip.
Emma Bailey’s gaudy glam and desolate set design seamlessly encompasses the plays consciously empathetic adoration for its own characters. With a ‘karaoke stage’ and a platform for drunken conversations – Bridgend goes to Benidorm. But, with a stage littered by the debris of a truthful existence. It’s all revealed as just an ‘act’ of a ‘living’ that we try to create. In adolescence we try to tear everything down and in adulthood you try to hoist it back up, but it happens the other way around.
We should give our parents more credit. Mum, Dad we get why you stayed up with us from 2am-7am after that one night out. So, we get why you were angry about it – it wasn’t because you didn’t get any sleep. We’re not sorry, but thank you.