Love, Love, Love Charts The Baby Boomers Story

Love, Love, Love, Lyric Hammersmith ★★★★☆

By Matthew Holder Last edited 21 months ago

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Love, Love, Love Charts The Baby Boomers Story Love, Love, Love, Lyric Hammersmith 4
Photo: Helen Maybanks

The 60s occupies a unique place in our culture, seemingly frozen in time as our collective adolescence. The period of the 'baby boomer' who embraced new freedoms, of talent no matter what the class, a desire for peace, adventure, long hair and of course (free) love.

If every life is a betrayal of our youthful selves, the 60s is everyone's failed dream that we can't help but return to. In the hands of playwrights, an opportunity to ask 'what changed, where did we go wrong?'

Tracing this fall is Mike Barlett's broad comedy Love, Love, Love, which premiered in 2010. Though funny, a devastating commentary on the nature of this betrayal is threaded through this family drama. In three parts it neatly captures the hope and expectation of 1967's swinging London, a 1990 that reeks of 10 years of Thatcher's praise of the individual, and ending in 2011 where the freedoms of our baby-boomers has become an asset to hold onto against their children's demands. Considering events since then — borders closing and nationalism rising — the play occupies an interesting place in 2020. And a new question emerges: will the 60s mean anything to anyone for much longer?

Photo: Helen Mabanks

In a kind of dialectical degeneration over 40 plus years, Sandra (a willowy and brittle Rachael Stirling) and Kenneth (Nicholas Burns of Nathan Barley fame, fitting seamlessly into every period from feckless student to grey-haired retiree), meet, fall in love, have children, get bored, divorce and become the 'older generation.' The tone shifts around which keeps things interesting. One moment Sandra is a caricature hippie, then a shoulder-padded and stressed executive who shouts with incomprehension 'we live in Reading!' Finally realism crashes in, with the daughter serving as the victim of her parent's selfish love.

Bartlett's attitude to all this is interesting. Though it appears as a straightforward fall — from idealistic flower-power to rich retirement — Sandra and Kenneth improve with age, their younger characters looking ridiculous when compared to the realism that Bartlett gives to their older selves or their children. You can sense he both admires what the 60s represents but is angry that its generation has stolen all the resources and good in the world. As their daughter says, 'if you remember the 60s, you weren't there. What a smug fucking thing to say. You didn't change the world, you bought it.'

Yet, if the 60s generation failed us, Bartlett shows us its children are lost, both angry and lacking the spirit of their parents to even try to change the world. Love, Love, Love's examination of all this messiness is a masterclass of performance and text.

Love, Love, Love, Lyric Hammersmith, Lyric Square, King St, W6 0QL, £10-£42. Until 4 April

Last Updated 13 March 2020