views from the gods

saints and sinners of the stage and screen

Normal Love
Lilian Baylis Studio
15th July 2014


Publicity image for Normal Love

Photography provided by Eldarin Yeong Studio

When you give a show an impossible sounding name, you just know there's going to be an inherent conflict somewhere at its core. Emotions take us over in so many different and unpredictable ways, defining any kind of normal reaction just can't be done. Director Zi Ling recognises this in part and doesn't attempt to verbalise the discussion. Instead, Normal Love is a visually breathtaking and captivating piece.

We open with a woman manipulating a series of men, one by one, moving them around the stage at her will as if they were puppets. Look closely and she is actually pulling their strings; you can catch the delicate lines glistening in the light. It's one of the more obvious metaphors and our first hint that Ling intends to explore a more destructive side of human passion. Some scene changes are abrupt with unexpected blackouts and the structure is always difficult to keep up with, but the use of manipulation is a constant link throughout the entire 60 minutes. This is all about the negative side of affairs of the heart.

Normal Love is full of many striking images which connect with you on a very raw level. There is no dialogue, no explanation, but the framing is just so incredibly visceral throughout. Jing Wang's set sees a contorted metal line running along it, almost like a nerve. The performers constantly twist the central stage round and swap places, underpinning the ever-changing emotions of the piece.

Monika Klimaite and Nectarios Theodorou

Photography provided by Eldarin Yeong Studio

At one point, there is frenetic guitar strumming from Steve Broe whilst Monika Klimaite dances wildly, thrashing around, framed by a hard white light. Watched by Joe Garbett, Nectarios Theodorou, Inda Pereda and Julius Tedaldi, Klimaite grabs her head in pain and collapses, constantly pulling herself up and and falling again. The music becomes even faster - Broe's playing full of a fierce and seemingly unstoppable energy - and then the stage becomes a tangled mess of human bodies, all spent and broken.

Physical theatre, dance and live music all fuse together to create something which you can't necessarily put into words, but that you instinctively feel. Broe's guitar playing stirs a number of feelings, not all necessarily dark - but occasional support from Tedaldi on the cello always brings the mood back down. He uses the strings to create a tortured sound, evoking pain and jealousy. Throughout the entire hour, I found myself utterly gripped, even though the lack of signposting meant I had no idea where we were going next.

Small repeated gestures are used to layer the intensity of each sequence as they build up to often destructive conclusions. Jemma Gould's choreography is beautiful, but at times I felt that the performers were so highly focused on using the whole of their bodies to express a sentiment that their faces weren't as expressive as perhaps the scene demanded.

Normal Love is as entrancing as it is utterly confusing. Due to the nature of the show, the lack of clear narrative structure only adds to its impact - a thoroughly clever trick. Love isn't easy to decipher and sometimes it is like the fractured, all-consuming production brought to us by Eldarin Yeong Studio and Normal Love Theatre. You'll connect with this piece, but you may not understand exactly why. A lack of resolution may be frustrating, but it's one powerful journey.

Normal Love ran from 15th to 17th July 2014 at the Lilian Baylis Studio.

Nearest tube station: Angel (Northern)

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