HOW LOVE IS SPELT London's Southwark Playhouse
Larner Wallace-Taylor and Michelle Collins: photo Ali Wright

The first major revival of Chloe Moss's play How Love Is Spelt, which first appeared at the Bush Theatre in 2004, makes its appearance at London's Southwark Playhouse (The Little studio) for a three week run, this time under the direction of Charlotte Peters and a new creative team. Featuring 20 year old Peta (Larner Wallace-Taylor) who has moved to London from Liverpool in order to find herself and inject interest into her life, this is a complex journey of self discovery.Through her interaction with strangers she meets along the way and her relationships, Peta yearns to create a new and more mature persona and shed the frustration of her lonely life.

We are in Peta's messy London bedsit (zone 2) in the morning after a drunken one night stand with cheeky cockney Joe (Benjamin O'Mahoney), still in his underwear and looking the worst for wear. This is an awkward encounter which exposes Peta's naivety, but  serves as a lesson in her development. When she moves on to mild mannered History teacher, Steven (Duncan Moore) she ups her game and behaves with more control, believing this will make her appear more mature and less childlike. Like a chameleon she changes her manner with each encounter, plagiarising odd phrases that she has picked up from those experiences and using them to colour her persona. Over a series of five scenes she is lover, friend and frightened young girl. A tender story of a lost soul desperate to find herself, this is a play of vulnerability, sadness and despair.

Despite the focus on Peta, we tend to learn more about Joe, Steven, Chantelle (Yana Penrose) and Marion (Michelle Collins) who use their brief time with Peta to project their own backstory rather than support and discover more about her. Each has little self worth, believing their lives have taken wrong turns; each is lonely and vulnerable. At the close of the 2.5 hour production, we have gained little awareness of Peta's past, only to say that she was desperately unhappy and intent on shedding her frustration with her past and find hope for her future.

The Little is a small studio space, seating a maximum of 120 and lending itself to an intimate up close and personal perspective, both by Georgia de Grey's set design of a shambolic and messy bedsit (mirroring the life of Peta) and the direction of Charlotte Peters. Disappointingly I still felt distanced despite the physical proximity of the performance. Undeniably there was commitment from the five strong cast who immersed themselves in their roles and whose dialogue, albeit somewhat dated, as well as their poignant silences, revealed their hopelessness. Michelle Collins, Nigel Boyle, Benjamin O'Mahony, Yana Penrose, Larner Wallace-Taylor and Duncan Moore performed with integrity and commitment in this series of vignettes which offered a keyhole observation of those who seriously undervalue their own sense of worth.

Listings Information

Venue: Southwark Playhouse, 77-85 Newington Causeway, London SE1 6BD.

Nearest tube Borough, Elephant and Castle

Performances Wednesday 4-Saturday 28 September 2019
Mondays to Saturdays 8 pm
Tuesday and Saturday matinees 3.30 pm for full schedule. No booking fees.
Telephone: 020 7407 0234 - no booking fees.

Ticket prices £22, £18 (with concessions)

Twitter @swkplay#HowLoveIsSpelt