Love and Other Acts of Violence delivers what it promises. As a subversive story of a couple who meet by chance and become embroiled in a dysfunctional relationship, it could be relatable to many for a multitude of reasons – none of which are very happy.
The play draws on the history of the anti-Jewish violence in Poland from 1944-46, right at the end of World War 2, and examines the concept of inherited trauma. Do we feel the pain of the tragedies that befell our grandparents, and how does this influence us and our attitudes towards others- especially those who are perhaps descended from those that would have been opposing our ancestors? It’s an important question; one that has been right at the forefront of political and cultural discussions of late. But should any person be subjected to resentment because of actions taken by someone they never knew, 80 years ago?
Primarily a two hander, with a shorter section towards the end where more characters give the history some context, Abigail Weinstock and Tom Motherstone deliver arresting performances with vigour and full commitment. The whole experience is intense, extremely immersive and something I don’t think I will forget soon. Tackling serious and important issues, Love and Other Acts of Violence is brave and creative in its execution, and will no doubt start the conversations the writer and the production intended to start.
However, it is arguable that its relentless intensity may be too much of a bitter pill to swallow for some, as to detract from the enjoyment of it as a piece of theatre. Those who find themselves sensitive to themes of racism, political violence, war, domestic violence, abusive relationships, mental health issues and death of children/miscarriage may want to consider this play carefully.
Indeed, it throws a pale spotlight on what constitutes a healthy relationship. Although the couple do get physically violent with each other towards the climax of the story, what stands out just as much are the effects of emotional and mental manipulation—for example, withholding information and using it as leverage or means of control.
I am inclined to disagree with the title of the play: at least between the two main characters, I am not convinced that this play depicts love—merely the co-dependency of two people stuck in a dark cycle of control and submission.
Love and Other Acts of Violence plays at the Donmar Warehouse until the 27th November. https://booking.donmarwarehouse.com/events
Reviewer: Natalie Romero
Reviewed: 15th October 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★