Perennial Fringe favourites Martin Dockery and Vanessa Quesnelle bring a brand new high stakes drama to life with a pair of vibrant performances in Love is a Battlefield.

Dockery and Quesnelle are a pleasure to watch as they slowly unearth the depths of their characters’ insecurities through the layers of armor that humans frequently erect between one another. As usual in a play by Dockery, I can’t say too much about the plot or its development without ruining the experience of watching it unfold on stage.

Photograph courtesy of Concrete Drops
Photograph courtesy of Concrete Drops

The physical interaction between the characters develops as their emotional truths are uncovered with each aggressive thrust of the dialogue. These are two characters that will fight to defend their secrets as a sort of talisman against hurt from the outside world, and neither opens up willingly or without reservation. The show explores this tension in a nuanced manner, and that is an admirable accomplishment.

The script itself, however, falls a little flat for me in a couple of ways that leave me with some things to say about where I think it could go as it develops. First, the fierceness with which the characters guard their respective secrets serves as a substantial barrier to the audience becoming invested in what is going on at the beginning of the play. For me, the desire to know what was motivating the conflict between these people was not enough to keep me interested while I knew nothing about them as individuals. I didn’t care about either one of them, and so I found it hard to be intrigued by the conflict. This problem lessens as the show progresses, because the walls come down and we see their vulnerability, but for me it wasn’t soon enough.

Next, and perhaps it’s because I have seen and appreciated a number of works by Dockery, but I found the show progressing in rather predictable beats. While I didn’t know exactly what was going to happen next, I could often anticipate that a change was about to occur. This also served to deflect my investment in the action.

Finally, I had a bit of difficulty reconciling the changes in attitude of Dockery’s character at the end of the play. He abandons the hard practicality that has been his approach to everything so far at the same moment that his stakes in the matter become highest. For me, this didn’t work as it presently occurs, not to say that it is an impossible change for a person to undergo.

This show is in progress, and carries with it a vast wealth of potential in the strong creator/performers at its helm. I look forward to witnessing a later stage of the development it will undergo on the Fringe tour, and so should you. In spite of its difficulties, these two deliver a riveting performance that ought not to be missed.

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