CLF Arts Cafe, Peckham
The CLF Arts Cafe in the Bussey Building in Peckham is the perfect venue for the premiere of City Love, a touching look at a quarter-life crisis romance. Walking through Peckham’s lively market streets and then entering the performance space through a courtyard decorated with street art provided a hipster oasis atmosphere for this poignant story.
City Love is essentially two interlinked monologues, a he-says, she-says, covering the arc of a relationship under stress from a ravenous metropolis. Lucy (Natasha Broomfield) is a go-getter with a sharp hair-do, religiously reading “The Secret”, soaking up the pleasures of London and bursting to get through the glass ceiling. Jim (Ian Bonar) is less sure of himself, lives with his sister, has a low-paid job and feels marginalised by the pressures of big city living. Somehow, he screws up the courage to approach Lucy after they share flirty glances in a fried chicken-scented night bus ride back to Peckham and a relationship blossoms.
Using a minimal set, director Sarah Bedi has encouraged all-too-believable performances from Broomfield and Bonar. Use of recordings of pivotal moments in the relationship cleverly show a contrast between the happiness the couple once had, and where they have ended up.
Playwright Simon Vinnicombe manages to capture the uncertainties and misgivings of an ordinary young couple trying to find their way, together, in a world which doesn’t offer the cushy path they were promised. Descriptions of London life in particular strike a chord, piercing through the shiny facade the city presents and exposing how it can challenge us to remain true to ourselves, true to our hearts. At times, the characters ask (presumably the counsellor they are addressing throughout), “Can we just stop here?” trying to avoid the sadness that you know must be coming up. Despite the pain, the story couldn’t stop there. It had to wind along, to show that an honest experience of love is not all cuddling all night under the stars in the park, just as London isn’t all about cocktails from a rooftop bar overlooking Southbank.
Sadly, City Love‘s run is now over, but Simon Vinnicombe is on commission from the National Theatre and I look forward to more of his work.