Love and Information leaves you feeling punch-drunk. Caryl Churchill’s play, receiving its regional premiere after its 2012 debut at the Royal Court in London, consists of over 100 characters (played by a cast of six), in a series of 57 unconnected scenes, some lasting a few seconds, others lasting approximately five minutes. “My head’s too full of….stuff” says an insomniac towards the start. By the end, you’ll know where she’s coming from.
In many respects, it’s a dazzling production. Max Jones’ set is breathtaking – a grid-like collection of squares in which actors appear, disappear and then reappear as new characters. Johanna Town’s lighting lends things an almost sci-fi sheen. Yet it can be a challenge making sense of Churchill’s sketches – a man declares he’s in love with a computer, there’s a lounge-jazz version of Soundgarden’s Black Hole Sun, some Avenue Q-style puppets appear, and a man dressed as Father Christmas wanders onstage and then disappears again.
Although the scenes are unconnected, there are recurrent themes: an exploration of memory and the effects of dementia, as well as commentary on modern society’s incessant need for a constant stream of information. Caroline Steinbeis’ direction is well-paced, and her cast handle each scene beautifully – especially as Churchill’s script gives minimal stage direction,s and assign no gender, name, age or race to the characters.
It can sometimes feel scattershot and unfocused, but it’s a tremendous technical achievement with the power to haunt and disorientate.