LOVE-LIES-BLEEDING is a play about assisted death, from the mighty pen of Don DeLillo, an American novelist made famous by books such as Underworld and White Noise.
Yes, tough subject matter, but director Jack McNamara has made a mighty good fist of the play’s UK premiere – thirteen long years since it was written. Helped in a big way, it must be said, by some fine performances from its cast – a bubbly and flirty Josie Lawrence (when is she not bubbly), Joe McGann, Clara Indrani and Jack Wilkinson (all anger and testosterone).
The play is set in the desert studio of Alex (McGann), a once successful but rather awkward artist who likes his women. Four wives down and more probably if he could.
Sadly, there will be no more marriages sealed and then broken as a series of strokes have left him wheel chair bound and unable to communicate with anyone. He is in a persistent vegetative state and cared for lovingly by Lia (Indrani), half his age but twice the person he was. Contender for carer of the year.
Into the desert stride Toinette (Lawrence), wife number two, and Sean (Wilkinson) – Alex’s son from his first marriage. They have a dastardly plan, to put Alex out of his misery, so determined in fact that Sean comes armed with a bottle of morphine, a syringe and instructions from the internet on how to administer it. Oh and a turkey bag as well just in case the morphine fails to do the trick and cruder measures are required.
But Lia, doting Lia, is far from happy about their intentions. She is adamant – to begin with –that he should be allowed to die on his terms, not theirs. Toinette begs her to let him find a final peace. Who will prevail? Will they stick by their intentions?
Through flashback, we learn a little more about the chemistry that once drew Alex and Toinette together, a relationship that lasted eleven years. ‘I was 22 you bastard,’ says Toinette, bemoaning the fact she was so young when she first met him. They glug champagne and Toinette flirts outrageously.
We also discover Sean’s disdain for his father and a love of plants that bonds him, Toinette and Alex. Of course, Love Lies Bleeding is the name of an annual plant but the play’s title also describes the relationship between the four characters – a mix of love and hate.
Love-Lies-Bleeding is a timely play, beautifully written, that tackles one of the most ethically complex issues of our time – should we permit assisted death?
It is brilliantly staged at the Coronet Print Room in London’s Notting Hill. Do get there early and have a drink in the marvellous bar – an experience in itself. A great night out despite the play’s overwhelming grimness. It runs until December 8.
Title image by Tristram Kenton