BWW Review: TIME IS LOVE / TIEMPO ES AMOR, Finborough Theatre
Two of the films I enjoyed most in 2018 were Blindspotting and Sorry To Bother You, both set in the overheated melting pot of Oakland, California. The action in Chè Walker's Time is Love / Tiempo es Amor may take place a few hundred miles south in Los Angeles, but it's firmly in the same psychological space, as young people seek to carve out lives in hostile, confusing environments.
Blaz has done three years in the Pen, after his buddy, Karl, drove off from a drugs deal to save his own skin and is trying to re-establish his steady relationship with Havana. She, while Blaz was inside, indulged in a one-night stand with Seamus, the cop who interrogated Blaz - somewhat improbably. But Blaz can weaken to the pleasures of the flesh too (for all that he and Havana seem genuinely to love each other) with a thing for Havana's best friend Rosa and a dalliance with sex worker, Serena, on his charge sheet.
We stand witness to this ménage-a-six (conducted, somewhat inexplicably, in English most of the time, but with about 10% of the dialogue in Spanish - we do realise that the characters are Hispanic) as secrets unravel and vulnerable personalities crack. The big question as ever with such inflamed passions is, "Do we care?" To which the answer is yes, with equivocation.
That's because the show is somewhat stolen by Sasha Frost, Blaz's online hooker pick-up, Serena, whose briefly explained backstory is far more interesting than the main plot. (That Frost is able to dial back her performance also helps, as 90 minutes all-through comprising passionate shouting matches punctuated by long philosophical speeches is a little wearing). Cary Crankson's Seamus, a bent cop with a sex addiction and coke habit, is also chronically underused, his scene with Rosa (a dryly cynical Sheila Atim) a real, and too brief, highlight.
But the main focus of the play concerns the fracturing lifelong relationships between Blaz, Havana and Karl. Gabriel Akuwudike and Benjamin Cawley get plenty of opportunities to show off their impressive pecs and Jessica Ledon smoulders with desire and anger, but they all speak with the same voice. Any of the three could be saying any of the lines and we wouldn't notice the difference - that's partly because Walker gives them too much speechifying and not enough conversation. Do people speak like this in LA? Anywhere? I doubt it.
Ultimately the play gives the impression of being a film script that isn't sufficiently cinematic (Walker has extensive credits for the screen as well as the stage) with a frustratingly misplaced focus on the three least interesting characters, It also feels very West Coast and hot - something that requires an exhaustingly long mental jump from West London and chilly, the environment to which we rather gratefully return.
Photo credit DWGH Photos