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Review: L'AMORE DEL CUORE (HEART'S DESIRE), Coronet Theatre

Caryl Churchill's one-act play lands on the Coronet stage with a remarkable Italian translation.

By: Jun. 14, 2024
Review: L'AMORE DEL CUORE (HEART'S DESIRE), Coronet Theatre  Image
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Review: L'AMORE DEL CUORE (HEART'S DESIRE), Coronet Theatre  ImageThe Coronet might be the most internationally inclined venue in London. From hosting Japanese companies to putting on an entire programme of Taiwanese work, they stage remarkable projects. Once the home of the Italian Theatre Festival, the theatre is now presenting a translation of one of Britain’s most prominent authors.

Laura Caretti and Margaret Rose adapt Caryl Churchill’s one-act Heart’s Desire into Italian, making it L’amore Del Cuore (which literally means “heart’s love”). A hearty family drama, it sees the anxious return of a daughter to her childhood home. A sequence of scenarios unfold according to director Lisa Ferlazzo Natoli, who uses a visceral approach to the text to deliver a jarring, thought-provoking piece of theatre.

As the vignettes grow increasingly more tense, verging onto the farcical, the surreality of the situation becomes more established. Lewis, the son, is a force that controls the family via Churchill’s stage directions. This method infuses the material with erratic experimentalism, adding a hint of parody and slapstick to the meta-theatrical nature of her vision. In true Caryl Churchill form, the result is positively obscure. The series of half-scenes reset once the characters come to be too lost and wrapped up inside their thoughts, creating a sense of fragmentation and insecurity. Ferlazzo Natoli delivers a fearless execution of this side of Churchill's script, crafting an intrusively funny and arrestingly profound production.

The shattering of conventions offers a strange proximity with the action. The performers - a tight ensemble of strong finesse and standing - live a communal pretence, like puppets during a child’s playtime. With a wobbly fourth wall and an enigmatic storyline, their dissatisfactions, unhappiness, and impulses travel into beyond the proscenium. Churchill’s oddities become imagined; it’s almost an oneiric experience, one of those you can’t leave behind once the show’s over. The direction is as precise as it is generous, offering a crystal clear concept whilst allowing for ambiguity with that delectably European, charismatic je ne sais quoi. Though non-linear and frankly bonkers at times, the project begs the crowd to fill the gaps and add to the story themselves until they’re satisfied.

It’s unnecessary to say that the actors give stunning performances. Remarkably flexible and natural, they toy with the highly artificial setting of their show. A table, minimal props, and a coat stand mark the scene while Alessandro Ferroni’s sound (he also curates the set design) carries particular consideration to vocal distance with an attentive use of microphones. It’s a joy to see tradition shattered with such nonchalant ease. The situation never resolves, the characters don’t change, and Suzy never shows up. So, what’s the point of it? The point is whatever you want it to be. À la Caryl Churchill.

L'amore Del Cuore (Heart's Desire) runs at the Coronet Theatre until 15 June.

Photo credit: Sveva Bellucci


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