Paul T Davies reviews Eileen Horne’s adaptation of Daniel Glattauer’s Love Virtually at the Frinton Summer Theatre.
Frinton Summer Theatre.
7 August 2018
It’s impressive that Frinton Summer Theatre have included a new play in their programme, giving a good sense of variety among the schedule. Dramatised versions of Daniel Glattauer’s books have appeared throughout Europe, and the novels themselves are hugely popular. This adaptation by Eileen Horne is the UK premiere, and it’s a romance told through emails, following an accidental encounter online when Emmi tries to cancel an online subscription for Like magazine and her emails go to Leo Licke. They gradually develop feelings for each other, and this being a rom-com there are obstacles in their way, mainly his ex and then new girlfriend, and she is married, although it’s not a happy one.
Director Clive Brill also directed the radio version of the play, and I feel that radio is probably the best format for the story. In a challenge to the actors, they have to remain in their own spheres and communicate by reading their emails out. They only look at each other right at the end of the play, and it gives it all a rather “self contained” feel, dramatically not a lot happens on stage. Frustratingly, they have a couple of meets that take place off stage, we don’t even see the drama played out in front of us, events are relayed “the morning after”. It’s not that the actors do anything wrong, Annabel Wright and Oliver Le Sueur do a fine job at conveying the story, and Clive Brill himself appears, via video, as Emmi’s husband Bernard, begging Leo to meet Emmi just once, to end the fantasy she has created about him. Perhaps it’s the translation, but the play lacks passion, I wanted the characters to get much more emotional with each other and to let loose their feelings a bit- tricky to do when the narrative thrust requires them to speak via email. They also don’t use text, Facebook, messenger or Skype, claim they have no desire to see what each other look like before meeting, and it feels a little dated.
However, there is much to enjoy in the production in addition to the acting. I loved the projections and titles that appeared on the screen, an excellent design by Beth Colley, and the music is beautiful and chosen with great sensitivity to the material. As this is a romantic tale, there’s only one way the play can end, and it certainly delivered on that score, with many female audience members around me sighing with pleasure! Perhaps the play is, ultimately, about the dangers of creating an online version of somebody and seeing that as an escape from the difficulties in your life- and for that, it’s a topical tale!