Love Child, a two hander written and performed by Daniel Jenkins and Robert Stanton, is a frantic farce with a cast list of at least 10 characters, all brought to life with remarkable wit and style by the two performers.
The play has a dubious-sounding postmodern premise, concerning as it does a determined group of actors who are trying to put on a show despite, or with the help of, the people in the audience. Not the most original of set-ups maybe, but it is much funnier than it sounds.
The play within the play is also called Love Child and it is a modern telling of the ancient Greek comedy, Ion. In both, there is a case of mistaken identity leading to a mother/son reunion. How this all ties in with the actual show is something I will leave a mystery (but not one you have to think too hard about).
Anyway, for the most part, the plot of the show-within-the-show is beside the point. Instead the plot provides a convenient set of diving boards for the two actors to launch themselves into playing the story’s multiple characters, something they do with relish. This approach is hugely successful in the scene where they play six different characters during an extended backstage argument.
The duo are far less successful in some of the more frantic portions of the play, as characters enter and leave scenes randomly. Often it takes a while to understand which character is being channeled at a specific time.
There are, however, some standout moments. Twice the duo break into songs that are so delightfully inappropriate that the theater overflows with laughter. Daniel Jenkins, the smaller of the two, seems tightly bound in nearly all situations; lanky Robert Stanton uses his height and bearing to give life to a remarkable number of different female characters. The two men are excellent at making you buy into their various characters, rather than simply showing off their versatility as actors.
In the main, Love Child has an enjoyable farcical quality that is maintained for most of the tight 80 minute run time. And the show also does a very good job of bringing all the characters together in a reasonable satisfying way. Only towards the very end, when the production suddenly veers towards a contrived resolution, does the play stumble. It is this quick descent into mawkishness that stays with you unfortunately, rather than the (abundant) jokes and laughs.
This is a small scale show in every sense, but it is entertaining and performed with warmth and good humour, it’s just a shame it falls down at the last hurdle.