Despite what the Hollywood movies tell us, true lifelong friendships are actually incredibly rare, and usually not without some bumps along the way. Elinor Cook’s Out of Love, part of the Paines Plough and Theatr Clwyd season at The Orange Tree Theatre, recognises this fact and portrays a long-lasting friendship which seems as real as is possible on the stage.
Lorna and Grace have been friends from childhood, Grace is the more confident one, and at times undoubtedly manipulates her friend, but following a teenage pregnancy it is Grace who escapes the village, and makes a success of her life.
There’s a reason for it, but the timeline jumps around all over the place, so it’s already quite difficult to keep track of what’s going on. What’s more, both Sally Messham (Lorna) and Katie Elin-Salt (Grace) play at least two characters, while Hasan Dixon plays every male role (I counted at least eight) so assuming you’ve understood the timeline, you then have to figure out who’s actually in the scene.
Aside from the fact that it’s all quite hard work, the story is one of particular beauty, drawing out the character’s strengths and weaknesses. Sally Messham can really get her teeth in the role of Lorna, because there is so much to explore, while Katie Elin-Salt has truly captured the shrewdness of Grace.
Sitting behind the performance is a really alluring soundtrack, with a gentle rhythm which gives the whole production an almost dreamlike quality. It feels like we are looking back on this friendship in the same way the characters are, through snippets of memory and snatched recollections. All helped by another great example of Peter Small’s lighting, which frames everything in a warm comforting glow.
Out of Love may require some effort on the audience’s part, but in the end, it’s worth it. At its heart, this is a charming play about friendship in a form which many of us could recognise, because Elinor Cook has not relied on an outlandish plot, but instead has created something that feels entirely real and plausible.