Sunday, February 14, 2021

LOVE DOWN THE LINE (New Perspectives)*****


By Sophie


Available until: Sadly, this is sold out but as the run has proved so popular, perhaps it might be extended. Especially now all the good reviews are coming out.

Love Down the Line is a special Valentine’s Day experience devised by New Perspectives. Everyone who books a play receives a phone call from one of the two actors involved in the project, Sophia Hatfield and Ollie Smith. 

I am not in a relationship and an unlikely ever to be in one, but I saw no reason why my asexuality should make me ineligible for this fascinating performance idea. And it’s nice to get a present on Valentine’s Day, even if I paid for it. (Asexuality comes in many forms, but personally, I am very capable of romantic love. I fall in love with people of all genders all the time and would love to cuddle them all… when we’re all vaccinated, anyway.)

I’m not sure how many different stories there are – there are only two actors so there might be two different stories or there might be several. Or possibly both actors told the same story – there might be a few gender-specific terms that need to change in the story I heard, but I think it would work for any gender.

My story was told by Sophia Hatfield. The story was written by Sophie Hatfield and Jack McNamara, who also directs. I’m not sure whether Sophia Hatfield and Sophie Hatfield are the same person or not or if it’s an error or not – I personally use both Sophie and Sophia in different situations and that’s not uncommon in fields like writing and acting. I will use the names provided on the website and if ‘Sophie’ is wrong, we can blame the website! Technology seems an acceptable scapegoat for most things nowadays

The first thing that happens is you get a phone call from the actor. They check that they’re speaking to the right person, then they switch you over to the story. The story I heard was written in the form of one side of a phone call. The character has phoned a particular person and has something very long and complicated to explain and as the audience, our role is merely to sit there and listen to the story.

Sophie and Jack have written the story so it sounds very convincingly like a genuine phone call, but it also makes a very good play/monologue. Although it’s not a story in the ‘once upon a time’ tradition, it does feel like a story. The character explains their current situation and feelings in a way that sounds very natural, but it’s very clear and easy to follow. It relates a situation which I’m sure most people have experienced to an extent - I have only experienced it from the point of view of the caller, but it still felt very familiar.

The story is brilliantly-delivered by Sophia. The character and the emotions came over really clearly and I was instantly invested in the story and sympathetic to the character’s situation, and became more sympathetic as the full extent of the person’s story was slowly revealed.

In fact, it sounded and felt so much like a real phone call, it actually felt slightly odd to remain completely silent whilst an anxious person poured their heart out to me on the phone. In a theatre, it is natural to remain silent, but when you’re on the telephone, some speaking on our part is usually required! However, it was not strange enough to spoil my enjoyment. It was more a matter of occasionally reminding myself to keep quiet, something which I would probably do well to remind myself of in many other situations too! (It can take quite a while to persuade me to talk, but once you do get me started, it’s extremely difficult to find the off-switch.)

I sometimes have difficulty in understanding people on the phone, but Sophia’s voice was extremely clear; the emotions, although very convincingly-expressed, did not distort her voice and I think I understood every word. The line is also very clear and other than a few clicks as the actor transfers you from the call to the story, there were no background noises.

Love Down the Line is a brilliant idea and it has at least one excellent story. If there is any further opportunity either to enjoy this series, or if something similar is offered by New Perspectives in future, it would be very highly recommended.

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