Spider Love – The Arts Centre, Edge Hill University

Spider Love is a new work-in-progress play that is intended to run as a companion piece to the hugely successful Truth to Power Café. They are both created by Jeremy Goldstein, son of Mick Goldstein, who was close friends with Harold Pinter and Henry Woolf. When Pinter wrote his only novel, The Dwarfs, he based the central character, Len, on Mick, immortalising his friend in literature. His novel was then adapted into a play.

Mick Goldstein responded by writing Will’s Friend, a play about his life-long friendship with Pinter, and what it was like to be written into The Dwarfs. Jeremy Goldstein has now adapted his father’s play, turning it into Spider Love.

As a work-in-progress, this performance of Spider Love was performed with script in hand.

Jeremy Goldstein Spider Love Edge Hill University London Artists Project
Jeremy Goldstein and Danny Sykes. Picture credit – Sarah Hickson

Like Truth to Power Café, Jeremy Goldstein’s Spider Love is a pleasing mixture of performance and stirring poetic verse, written by Henry Woolf. The poetry is beautifully evocative, laced with poignant metaphors that are dramatic and thought-provoking. It is performed with great care given to pace and rhythm, which allows the poetry to flow smoothly without disrupting the play.

“It was once the promised land and I was king”.

The narrative is non-linear with its protagonist, Mick, reliving his memories. Scenes from the past are interspersed with the present, as Mick’s troubled marriage makes him wonder “How the fuck did it get to this?“. His wife, Bev, is tired of living with a “filthy, hateful, no good” man who is more engrossed in his art than their marriage. For Mick, these memories offer escapism from his mundane life.

Photographs and videos are projected on a screen, accompanying performance. They are never overbearing, and rather than intrude on the play, they add a further depth to the story. A wedding picture reminds the audience of happier days in Mick and Bev’s marriage, knowing that they love each other, despite their bickering. The play’s multimedia approach is also used in Truth to Power Café, providing a further link to its companion piece.

It is hard to judge acting performances on a draft piece that is presented with scripts in hand. But, considering that Jeremy Goldstein has never professionally acted before, his performance is compelling. Goldstein plays his father, a man with whom he had a difficult relationship. The bravery needed to bare his soul like this, is admirable. It also appears to be a cathartic process, as his father struggles to accept the process of ageing, preferring to live in the past. It seems by portraying his father, Goldstein comes to peace with him.

eremy Goldstein Spider Love Edge Hill University London Artists Project
Rene Zegger as Harold Pinter. Picture Credit – Sarah Hickson.

Caroline O’Hara adds much needed femininity to such a masculine play, rendering Bev as a fun-loving, yet constrained character. Rene Zegger copes well with depicting the life of a literary legend, deftly capturing Harold Pinter’s sardonic humour and aloof personality. This must have been an intimidating role for Zegger to portray but it doesn’t show.

However, it is Danny Sykes who stands out as an actor playing Len in The Dwarfs. He is less dependent on his script and exudes confidence. Sykes’ character is bursting with youthful energy, which Mick admires, and it sparks an attraction for him. This is an attraction based on nostalgia, and seeing himself played on stage by this actor changes Mick’s life. He becomes more fixated on the past.

Sadly, there are times when the sound design overpowers the play’s gorgeous poetic monologues. But other than that, it is difficult to find fault with Spider Love. With this strong work-in-progress, Jeremy Goldstein has built a solid foundation to make a distinguished piece of theatre. In the post-show Q&A, he said that there were scenes that he wanted to further develop, and new ones he wants to write. The finished play will be years in the making, but a wait worthwhile.

What I liked most about Spider Love is its hugely inspiring ending, with Goldstein’s defiant call to arms, which inspires Truth to Power Café,Blow your trumpets, angels!“. It provides a nice link, setting the scene for the companion piece. I thought it would have been a nice touch for him to put on the crown too.

You can read my interview with Jeremy Goldstein or catch Truth to Power Café on tour.

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