Stuart King

Review: NO LOVE SONGS at Southwark Playhouse Elephant

Having previously wowed audiences at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2023, followed by a stint at Dundee Rep Theatre, NO LOVE SONGS now embarks upon a fortnight of performances in the main space at Southwark Playhouse Elephant, until 15th June.

No Love Songs (2024) Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan. John McLarnon and  Anna Russell-MartinNo Love Songs (2024) Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan. John McLarnon and Anna Russell-Martin.

From the creative team of Kyle Falconer, Laura Wilde and Johnny McKnight, the gig theatre piece leans heavily on the performance talents of Anna Russell-Martin (as Lana) and John McLarnon (as Jessie) who together with musical director and arranger Gavin Whitworth tell the tale of a guy and a gal whose eyes meet across a dance floor. They feel that spark and before long are jointly responsible for a baby.

But are parental responsibilities always fairly divided? Does society still have preconceived notions about particular roles based on sex? And even more significantly, if a new mother finds herself struggling to cope and lacks a support network, who is to blame when the pressure gets too much and the bond between mother and baby suffers?

Post-natal depression may not leap to the top of most people’s lists as an obvious topic for musical treatment, but in the assured hands of this group of talented creatives, the audience is taken on a couple’s touching, life-affirming journey — which whilst emotionally taxing, proves both informative and thought provoking, due undoubtedly to the research which has been undertaken whilst working-up the material. The songs are punchy, modern pop songs benefitting from confident and nuanced delivery in a simply staged setting as directed by Tashi Gore and Andrew Panton.