How Love is Spelt at Southwark Playhouse
How Love Is Spelt, the newly formed comedic revival written by Chloë Moss, follows 20-year-old Peta (Larner Wallace-Taylor) as she moves to London to set up her new life, hoping to find love, friendship and a new purpose. However, as the play unfolds, we are soon to realise that these are hard to come by, and Moss cleverly opens up the conversation about what love actually is and how loneliness and love can go hand in hand.
Directed by Charlotte Peters, the production is performed on a thrust stage, centred entirely on Peta’s bed in the all-too-realistic London dive (created by Georgia de Grey). The intimate theatre and intimate setting work well together, as the audience is really part of the action.
The play opens with Joe, Peta’s one-night stand, sleeping in her bed. Joe, well played by Benjamin O’Mahony, is a confident, cockney, jack-the-lad type who attempts to entice Peta in bed for a second time with his comedic monologue. In this first scene, Peta comes across as a shy girl, unsure of the choices she has made. But as the protagonist has more Tinder-style encounters, she repeats the same routine, adapting like a sponge to the people around her, carrying out her own fantasies by showing herself as a serial liar.
Peta also meets acutely nervous history teacher Steven (Duncan Moore), who is recently out of a long-term relationship and unsure about his next sexual encounter. We are then presented with the loud and recently dumped Chantelle (Yana Penrose), who is desperately seeking friendship and acceptance.
Post interval, we meet Marion, Peta’s next-door neighbour, played by Michelle Collins. This scene is a pivotal moment for the protagonist as Marion acts on her maternal instincts, treating Peta as she would her own daughter.
Peter’s direction is then shown to all its strengths in the final cataclysmic moment; the relationship between Peta and her ex-lover Colin (Nigel Boyle) is immensely tense, created through a genius use of silence and physicality.
How Love Is Spelt is a brittle comedy that doesn’t ever build to a full play; rather it captures five different scenes exploring the many facets of love, what this means and subsequent loneliness. The rawness of the final scene is where the parallels between love and loneliness finally come to a head, however it is unclear as to what Peta’s true motivations really are and the audience are left wondering.
Photo: Ali Wright
How Love is Spelt is at Southwark Playhouse from 4th September until 28th September 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.