Back in 1766, when the Bristol Old Vic first opened its doors, recently deceased playwright William Congreve was still a popular draw with theatre goers. So it seems only fitting that his 1695 play Love For Love should be revisited in Bristol’s beautiful Old Vic and that much of the performance should be lit by candlelight - just as it would have been in Congreve’s day.
Performed by the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, and directed by Jenny Stephens, it is easy to imagine how Old Vic audiences in the 1760s would have felt as they sat in the gorgeous theatre (possibly more comfy now than it was then) and watched be-wigged performers under the gentle flicker of candles. And to them, none of this would have felt like a historical piece… it would have just been the way things were.
And the way things were, in the scheme of Love For Love, is not really that different to the way things are now: 249 years later. We still cheat and conspire against our loved ones, we still set up plots and tricks to entice the object of our affection away from someone else and towards ourselves, and we still worry about not having enough money to live the way we want to.
Valentine (Timothy Innes) is anxious at his mounting debts and his father’s promise to wipe out his debts if Valentine signs forms stating that he will receive nothing when his father (Karl Wilson) dies and instead it will all go to his brother Benjamin (Harrison Reeves). Throw in some complicated romantic twists from the various women in the circle who are deciding who best to align themselves with to achieve the most wealthy match and you have a truly ridiculous romantic and social farce.
There is plenty of silliness and lots of laughs throughout Love For Love, although the scene stealers are Ryan McKen as the OTT nurse and Matt Jessup as decrepit butler Robin. it’s easy to see why it was one of the most popular plays of the Restoration Period and why Bristol Old Vic chose to revive it to perform in their recently revived theatre space.
Love For Love is performed at Bristol Old Vic until 27 June. Click here for more information and to buy tickets.