All you need is love: Slip of the Tongue's Europe

This review was written for artsHub.

First performed in 1987, Europe is one of Michael Gow’s earlier plays, but to pass it off as merely an ‘early work’ is to do the play a disservice. Presented by Slip of the Tongue as part of the Seymour Centre’s Reginald Theatre season, Europe takes you on a grand journey of the heart to the cities where love lives larger and, well, more romantically than perhaps anywhere else on the planet. But at the same time, it asks us whether we are truly content with what we have, or whether we need to chase something else, something bigger to make us feel alive?

Slip of the Tongue’s production is simple, heartfelt and gloriously alive. Andrea Espinoza’s set of what looks like the backstage view of a theatre-set elegantly transforms into a small apartment and a restaurant, a chapel and a train station with a minimum of fuss or overt changes, and it never slows the production down. Benjamin Brockman’s lighting is clear and warm, cleverly attuned to the nature of Espinoza’s set, and it draws out the romance and the emotion in the performances. Gow’s Europe is, appropriately enough, a two-hander, and Andrew Henry as Douglas and Pippa Grandison as Barbara are marvellous. Grandison plays up the theatricality of the European actress with relish, her mannerisms as passionate and eversoslightly ridiculous as they should be. Henry’s Douglas is loveable and just as passionate in his own way as Barbara; while there is a faint desperation to his defence of himself and his actions, it doesn’t so much come across as bitter but out of a desire to declare himself serious, honest and genuine. With a deft and subtle hand, director James Beach keeps Gow’s script moving over sixty-five gloriously heady minutes, gives each moment its own room to shine and brings out the lighter moments with grace. Characteristic of all of Gow’s work, there is a robust word-drunkenness here which perfectly suits its subject and plot. As with Away, Toy Symphony and Once In Royal David’s City (among others), Europe is peppered with theatrical allusions and references, grounding it further in its world and allowing its arguments to breathe...

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