by James Hewison
Bodies crash, knives are drawn, and kisses are missiles in Volcano Theatre Company’s physical theatre production, L.O.V.E.
In L.O.V.E., Shakespeare’s Sonnets are liberally ripped, cut, and repurposed into a visceral love-triangle between the text’s three main protagonists; the Dark Lady, The Lovely Boy, and the Poet himself; all ripened with bruising choreography around the crimson bedsheets, and a soundtrack studded with Shirley Bassey torch song standards.
Montage from L.O.V.E. (2012)
Much of the choreography in L.O.V.E. involves acts of manipulative interpersonal contact where bodies are energetically pushed and pulled, generating immediate signifiers of attraction, repulsion, and chronic dependency. These choreographies of resistance and desire were utilised to provide physical echoes to the narrative thrust of the show, and examples of this can be seen in the short video clip provided here. One such scene, “The Drunken Boy,” came towards the end of the show, and a brief extract can be seen at approximately 1 minute and 20 seconds. Here the Dark Lady and the Poet manhandle the seemingly inebriated Boy, spinning, lifting, and shifting him between themselves in a progressively more violent (and not so) merry-go-round.
The sequential texts used to underpin the choreographic material that led up to this moment were Sonnets 57 and 58, both of which wrestle with images of a lover’s tortured enslavement to their beloved’s whims and caprice: “Being your slave, what should I do but tend upon the hours and times of your desire?” (Sonnet 57). In performance, these words were delivered as affirmative dialogue between the Dark Lady and the Poet who, though bitter rivals for the Boy’s affection throughout the performance, now join forces to attend to the Boy’s will, which, in this moment, resembles unstable and reckless momentum and weight over which he has little control, or care. He has become a flaccid and disappointingly drunken Boy at this point, and no good will come of it. He ends the show by being choked and then beaten to death by the Poet; first forced to swallow pages torn from one of the many leather-bound books that litter the set before that same heavy tome is brought down repeatedly on his head. The Lovely Boy is killed by the words that made him.
-James Hewison, 2022
Note: For an essay on this production by James Hewison, who portrayed The Lovely Boy for a decade, see “Choreographing the Sonnets: Volcano Theatre Company’s L.O.V.E.”
Title of Film: L.O.V.E.
Director: Originally directed and choreographed by Nigel Charnock, restaged by Paul Davies
Date of Performance: October 30-31, 2012
Performers: Tibu Fortes, Andrew Keay, and Mairi Phillip
Choreographer: Nigel Charnock, with James Hewison, Movement Director for 2012
Publisher: Volcano Theatre Company
Source URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjC41lvK-eo
More Info: An adaptation based on Shakespeare’s Sonnets 57 and 58. Video by Mariko Montpetit.
Hewison, James. “Volcano Theatre Company’s L.O.V.E.” The Shakespeare and Dance Project, edited by Linda McJannet and Emily Winerock, January 2, 2022. shakespeareandance.com/video-gallery/shakespeare-adaptations/volcano-love/. Accessed [date].
Updated January 2, 2022.
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