With the Lion & Unicorn Theatre under new management, the first of their new associate artists, Fight or Flight Productions, present Tom Lodge’s Like You Hate Me. The marketing materials make it clear ‘this is not a play about love’, and that’s true to some extent. This two-hander is actually a play which encapsulates so much more about human relationships, and anyone who has ever been in love will be able to relate to the highs and lows which play out in these snatched moments of time.
Spanning several decades, the play presents the relationship between two women, and its subsequent breakdown, in a series of memory like fragments. There’s no obvious sequence to the way these snippets are delivered, jumping back and forth between early days of the relationship to old age and picking up everything in between. It’s disarming to begin with, and as it leaves you with questions which will remain forever unanswered, until you wonder if all the jigsaw pieces will ever fit together, and yet the bigger picture does somehow manage to emerge.
While the plot is (intentionally) haphazard, the staging is slick and precise. Director, Jess Barton, has grasped this fragmented world and given it a tremendously organic atmosphere. Two large mirrors reflect the characters as they reflect upon their lives, and this simple staging allows us to focus fully on the raw emotion of the performance.
While much of the text is dialogue between the two characters, there are several monologues strategically placed within the text, often delivered directly to one or two audience members. Whichever style of delivery is used, one thing remains consistent; the brutally honest and naturalistic style of the language makes Like You Hate Me feel not like a play that has been written, but a genuine account of two lives which have been lived.
Much of this authenticity comes from the accomplished performances from Acushla-Tara Kupe and Aimee Kember. The chemistry between the two is quite startling, from the way they mirror each other’s actions to the synchronised expressions, their performances are riveting.
Like You Hate Me is no easy watch, but neither does it exclude or intimidate. Each disparate scene represents an experience or a feeling that will be familiar to most. This may not be a play about love, but it is a play about the way love can shape, influence, and ultimately damage us.