When actors have so much life that their presence fills such a small, intimate performing space and the audience is in stitches from the very first line, there isn’t a sliver of doubt that you’re going to enjoy the show. This is precisely what Damon Lockwood (as producer/director/writer/actor) achieved with his powerfully funny I (Honestly) Love You.
Nestled somewhere between the energetic characters and the scathing wit is a playful comment on the most deeply ingrained emotion of the human psyche: love. Lloyd and Belle are burdened with being physically incapable of telling a lie. When they begin seeing one another, they wonder if there are some things that should be left unsaid in a relationship. Or is honesty really the best policy?
The most refreshing element of Lockwood’s play is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Constantly breaking the fourth wall convention to be blatantly humorous, more or less serious moments are frequently punctuated with direct, witty remarks to the audience. Love is a theme relatable to absolutely everyone, whether they have experienced it or are yet to find it. Despite this, the performance didn’t preoccupy itself with being too deep, but remembered and reminded that love is a part of life to enjoy.
All four actors were equally amusing and lively as an ensemble, but Jimmy James Eaton as Lloyd was perhaps the most notable. Being likeable, pitiable and hilariously embarrassing, his almost perpetually ashamed facial expression made him stand out. Together with George Gayler, whose Belle grew and developed fluidly, they were a chemical combination. Damon Lockwood and Talei Howell-Price were the protagonists’ respective friends, Andy and Alicia. However, they also served as every other character that existed in Lloyd and Belle’s lives. They flawlessly functioned to construct a light-hearted and semi-believable, if somewhat chaotic world.
While there were only sporadic songs and predominantly static lighting, Cherie Hewson’s elaborate stage design, a calendar background with various entry points and changeable date squares, gave the space a life of its own. Matching mustard yellow costumes for Damon and Talei married the characters to their small world, and cleverly emphasised Jimmy and George as the protagonists.
Never before have I seen a montage in a stage production, a convention typically employed in films. There wasn’t anything much in the performance that hasn’t been done before, such as the characters taking on multiple roles in the same scene, impromptu dance routines, and animated audience participation, but the way it was directed was done so that it felt both familiar and fresh. The underlining message didn’t spoil the entertainment, and the performance didn’t try to do more than was necessary, which is what made it such a pleasure.
It was a delight to witness the audience laughing so much and become so involved with the show. One of the first things on my mind when I walked out of the venue was that I wanted to watch it again. And that summarises the experience perfectly: Damon Lockwood’s I (Honestly) Love You is so infectious that it’s worth repeat-viewing.
Tuesday 15 April – Saturday 2 June 2012 (excludes Mondays and Sundays)