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Love-Lies-Bleeding review at the Print Room, London – ‘Don DeLillo’s poignant philosophical drama’

Joe McGann and Josie Lawrence in Love Lies Bleeding at the Print Room, London. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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The need to find meaning in the face of mortality is at the heart of Love-Lies-Bleeding, a swaggeringly bleak story of assisted dying from acclaimed American author Don DeLillo. If his script has a distinctly literary feel, the text is unabashedly verbose, emotionally raw, and spiked with bitterly black comedy.

After artist Alex suffers a deleterious stroke, his estranged relatives descend on his isolated home to decide his fate. Jack Wilkinson, as son Sean, is a snide realist managing his conflicted emotions through morbid practicality, downloading DIY euthanasia guides, and turning up with a large plastic bag just in case.

Josie Lawrence is brilliantly frazzled as ex-wife Toinette, her poise deteriorating believably into guilt and grief in striking contrast to the fragile resilience of Clara Indrani as current wife Lia. Appearing in flashback, Joe McGann is all gravelly-voiced charm as the complicated, charismatic man Alex once was.

Director Jack McNamara fills the show’s lean 90 minutes with energy, each snappy scene marked with bursts of evocative, overlapping dialogue or tense, resonant silence.

Gorgeously designed by Lily Arnold, the set superbly evokes the southwestern setting. A claustrophobically small square of wooden decking is surrounded by a monumental emptiness of sand, scrub, and desert flowers. A vast mirror fills the rear wall, at times serving as a canvas for Andrzej Goulding’s atmospheric video work featuring churning clouds and fragmentary faces. At other moments, it starkly reflects the characters, each one ultimately alone in an expanse of profound blackness.

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Poignant and visually appealing UK premiere of Don DeLillo’s philosophical drama