Tuesday, April 23

Love Them To Death – Underbelly Cowgate — Big Belly

What a joy to witness a two-hander of such quality. What an absolute joy to see a serious psychological disorder handled with such pace, such honesty. Exploring parent/child problems could lead to preaching. We could be judgemental. The text could be burdensomely heavy, but Max Dickins’ writing is sharp, well-informed and sprinkled with humour. Its authenticity speaks loud and clear.

Claire-Louise Cordwell (School Attendance Officer, Kelly) and Helena Antoniou (Gemma) perform with unwavering conviction from the start. Director, Hannah Eidinow has a clear handle on human foibles and these two actors do her proud.

The initial soundscape (Michael Woods) in the black cave of the Big Belly suggests joy, vitality and safe childish play in contrast to the forthcoming tense exchange between the professional, restrained Kelly and the demanding, anxious Gemma, looking for her share of attention by proxy. The blackness and the tense lighting (Holly Ellis) emphasise differing perspectives. The main focus, Danny, never appears, as he has no voice of his own to speak his truth.

As any teacher knows, educating our children is way more than lessons prepared and delivered at all levels. Love Them to Death snapshots just one child’s complicated experience, with humanity and intrigue. Inspired by a true story of Fabricated and Induced Illness you could feel the angst in your bones.

Love Them to Death is a mid-afternoon revelation. It pokes and prods the wounds of fear, power, vulnerability and illness. Is Gemma’s son genuinely sick or is this doting mother genuinely deluded, overly fearful, cruel or selfish? You worry about Daniel, and all Daniels, hoping that someone like Kelly is prepared to take risks to advocate, despite the lack of hard evidence, despite the sensitivity of such relationships and the danger endemic in being wrong.

When is it safe or justified to call out manipulation within the parent/child relationship? Where does the fabrication end? How do we manage such vulnerability and delusion while trying to protect those at risk?

This production left me hopeful. Produced by Something For The Weekend, this was an hour well spent.

Playing until 28th August visit https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/love-them-to-death for dates, times and availability.

Reviewer: Kathleen Mansfield

Reviewed: 5th August 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★