“The Mysterious Mr. Love.” Opening night, Plagwitz, Leipzig. May 28th, 2015.
Thursday evening last week saw a number of firsts for me. It was not only the first English-speaking play I’d seen in Germany but the first of any kind I’d seen since leaving Melbourne more than two years ago. I’d never been to the Neues Schauspiel Leipzig playhouse either and, although – like much of our always surprising town – it didn’t look like much from the outside, it impressed me with a sense of cosy efficiency from first walking through the doors. We availed ourselves of the bar – a nice Spanish red for me, thank you very much – and took a seat in the audience.
The play began and we met our characters, both seeming thoroughly settled in their separate paths but bound for a number of first experiences themselves. George Love enters as the charming thief: ready to sweep in upon and mount a targeted attack to woo, wed, bed, and abandon any unsuspecting Naïf that he chooses; leaving her with her virtue, not to mention her undergarments, cast aside; and her fortune in his pocket. We also meet Adelaide Pinchin, the current focus of our – hero? – a pathetic creature all too willing to fall for Mr. Love and his sweet words.
A whirlwind romance and a secret – and perhaps not exactly legitimate – wedding, sees Mr. Love following his plan to the letter. However, before too long Adelaide’s insecurities force a protective reaction from Mr. Love and this surprises him such that he falters in his step. Only briefly, but long enough for Adelaide to see him for what he truly is, a lost and insecure boy still hurting from a cruel mother’s words. Love and tenderness and honesty grow between our two, despite themselves. It appears that love can indeed heal all. Or can it?
Set in an England of a century ago, this play is beautifully scripted by Karoline Leach. The two actors, Peter Seaton-Clark and Nicola Chapman, played the roles as if the script had been written for them. Director Tom Bailey has utilised a clever lighting style, using harsh white light for the characters’ internal monologues and much softer lighting for the dialogues, nicely dividing the characters’ true selves from that which they present to the world. The temporal setting brings with it its own charm and brought to my mind parallels with the present day – there are still many lonely vulnerable people being taken advantage of by anyone out to make a quick buck.
An excellently-acted story of ordinary people pushed outside their comfort zone; of desperate people learning they can indeed find the strength to go on; of being exposed to doubt in our hearts and how terrifying it can be to accept our faults.
(Editor’s note: “The Mysterious Mr. Love” was quite successful on all of its three programmed dates – May 28th, 29th, 30th – and will have additional showings later this year at Neues Schauspiel, with October 2nd and 3rd confirmed so far. To keep up with this and other English-language plays in Leipzig, follow English Theatre Leipzig on Facebook.)
By Luciana Thompson