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LUV cast Nick Barber, Elsie Bennett and Charles Dorfman at the post-show Q&A

LUV cast Nick Barber, Elsie Bennett and Charles Dorfman at the post-show Q&A

What’s most absurd about absurdist comedy LUV? That it’s virtually unknown in this country – despite an incredible pedigree.

Long before he wrote the screenplay for the hit 1982 film Tootsie starring Dustin Hoffman, American Murray Schisgal made a name for himself in New York with this 1964 stage play, which is a riotous celebration of the lengths we go to when struck down with the affliction known as ‘love’.

The original production was directed by Mike Nichols, starred Alan Arkin and Eli Wallach as old schoolfriends Harry and Milt, who, after 15 years, unexpectedly reunite on a bridge from which one of them is contemplating throwing himself off, and Anne Jackson as the sometime wife to both. The play went on to win several Tony Awards, including Best Play, ran for nearly two-and-a-half years on Broadway (with Gene Wilder later joining the cast as suicidal Harry) and was made into a 1967 film starring Jack Lemmon, Peter Falk and Elaine May.

But despite these successes, and also having had a preview run at London’s Arts Theatre ahead of its premiere in New York, it’s only now that LUV receives its first major UK production, care of Buckland Theatre Company in this limited season, running until 7 January 2017 at the Park Theatre.

Why has the play been so neglected in this country? How did European absurdists influence Schisgal’s writing? And how did New York? (Imagine Neil Simon and Mel Brooks spawned Beckett and Ionesco…) What references to other plays (including Waiting for Godot) are there in LUV? Why is it the word ‘love’ misspelt in the title (or is it misspelt?)? And what’s next for Buckland Theatre?

After last night’s performance (14 December 2016), I was joined by director Gary Condes and the three-strong cast – Nick Barber, Elsie Bennett and Buckland founder, Charles Dorfman – to learn the answers to these and many other questions. Have a listen to the unedited podcast below.

Q&A photos by Peter Jones, production photography by The Other Richard. And great live-tweeting from Laura Thomson @BucklandTheatre and my fellow MyTheatreMates blogger Daniel Perks (@dperks13).

LUV continues at London’s Park Theatre until 7 January 2017.

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