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No Love Songs | Southwark Playhouse Elephant

No Love Songs is the story of Lana (Anna Russell-Martin) and Jessie (John McLarnon), who meet in a nightclub where Jessie’s band is playing. But the happiness of the opening scene is short-lived. When Lana falls pregnant, Jessie feels the pressure to provide for his growing family, but as he departs for a US tour, Lana struggles to cope.

Based on original idea by The View lead singer Kyle Falconer and his partner Laura Wilde, No Love Songs combines songs from Falconer’s second solo album with a book by Wilde and Johnny McKnight. The piece provides a raw depiction of the struggles of new parenthood, complicated by distance, a lack of communication and the central theme of the piece, post-natal depression. 

Anna Russell-Martin and John McLarnon are perfectly cast, with believable chemistry particularly as they snipe good-naturedly at one another in the more lighthearted moments. But they both also have the capacity to accurately portray the depths of emotion their characters are feeling as the piece reaches its climax.

Music is woven throughout the piece and is integral to the story, as is to be expected from a show which grew out of an album. However, the significance of the music does not just come from the poignant lyrics, as Gavin Whitworth’s arrangements turn parts of the book itself almost into song and also enhance the emotion of each moment perfectly. Whitworth also provides more than his stunning arrangements and musical direction, acting as a third cast member through his wordless interactions with Russell-Martin and McLarnon

Lighting choices by Grant Anderson are also perfect, taking us from a nightclub to an early-morning sunrise, and gradually darkening as the atmosphere of the piece itself turns darker. This complements Leila Kalbassi’s relatively basic set, which leans heavily on the gig theatre label, with the stage covered in all the paraphernalia of a concert setting.

Packed full of heart and emotion, No Love Songs will leave its audience with plenty to mull over, plenty to cry about, and plenty of new favourite songs to add to their playlists.

No Love Songs runs at Southwark Playhouse Elephant until 15th June. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan


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