9 May 2018.
“It’s just you and them, and the music”.
Dropping in on three different years, Loop begins in 1965 with a young woman leaving behind her frustrating life in London to start a new one in Manchester. Then, after eavesdropping on two teenagers falling in love in 1985, it all comes bang up to date with an anxious and unhappy young man weighing up his options for the future. Without giving too much away, these characters are all in some way related and their lives weave together but each has their own story to tell.
One family, three generations, four lives and their love of music.
From record player, to Walkman, vinyl to tape and then finally cordless headphones and a laptop full of MP3s – music is a continuing presence as Loop spools on. However they choose to listen to it, the music has a powerful hold on the characters and the play explores that connection. Songs can have a transformative effect, help make sense of complex emotions and feelings, or provide a sensation of total release. “I can’t explain it, you’re lifted out of you, out of life, out of the house”. And as the play moves through the years, music retains its power but the effects change. It becomes a soundtrack to a lifetime and a trigger for memories, good and bad.
Each story has a distinctive feel, like a theatrical three track EP. The gritty 1960s kitchen sink drama style opening scenes are in stark contrast to the funny, touching 1980s courtship that it segues into. And the final section adds a contemporary angsty texture to the mix, focusing in on the experience of an introverted and intense young man struggling with life.
Writer Alexander Knott has a lovely and surprising way with words. When a character sneers, it’s “like his smile is leaking out of his mouth”. The script’s often vivid lyricism seems to echo the melodic tone of the medium it celebrates. “I take one step, and then another, and then I’m free. I’m gone like smoke”.
Loop rarely reaches for the pause button, and Zoe Grain’s smooth choreography wraps it up in a buzzy energy, with the cast seemingly always on the move. It’s especially effective at showing the physical experience of one person within a crowd, whether uptight and uncomfortable amongst the rush of busy commuters, or seamlessly absorbed into the warm exhilarating welcome at a northern soul night.
That clever use of movement creates something very eye-catching using only some wooden boxes, a few costumes and minimal props. Collectively, the small cast work hard to animate the intimate space but they also individually deliver strong and engaging performances – quickly creating characters that you respond to and care about.
The beat goes on, and so does life. As the narrative loops back on itself and the end meets the beginning, the play reminds us that not only can music provide inspiration and hope, but that the shared enjoyment of it can create a deep bond.
In love with music, Loop is a hugely enjoyable fast forward through three generations of people, passions and playlists.