The Invention Of Love
By Darren Dalglish
November 11, 1998 Update: When Invention of Love re-opened once again, after a 7-month hiatus,
Darren Dalglish re-visited it in its new home, the Haymarket Theatre. He found the play, while still
complex and demanding, much more accessible the second time around. He had this to say about the main actors: "
John Wood, who starred in the original production, repeats his performance as the elderly A E
Housman with great skill and touching sentimentality as he flickers from painful memories to
joyous ones. Yet again, it is a phenomenal performance that is a joy to witness. Ben Porter, as the
young Housman, is also impressive and convincing, but he does not bring the same vulnerability
to the part as Paul Rhys had done in the role last year."
The print media critics once again gave Director Eyre, the cast and the play a thumbs up. E.S.
Tom Stoppard's new play The Invention of Love is Richard Eyre's last play
as director of The Royal National Theatre and what a beautifully crafted
production it is.
The story concerns A.E. Houseman, a professor and poet who wrote the
popular A Shropshire Lad . The play begins in 1936 when Houseman has just
died in Evelyn Nursing Home and now finds himself next to the riverbank
waiting to be taken to the great 'Otherside'. However, before he goes he
has visions of his younger self at college.
This dream like play has the elderly Houseman talking to his younger self.
It is revealed that Houseman has a homosexual love for a college friend
called Jackson. However, Jackson is a heterosexual and thus unavailable.
It is this obsessive love for his friend and his concealing of being a
homosexual that was to make Houseman a lonely and tortured man for most of
his life. At the end of the play there is an imaginary meeting with Oscar
Wilde (they never met in real life), which brings home to you the parallel
lives of them both. One private and denying himself fulfillment and the
other flamboyant and outrageous, but both their lives dominated by the love
of another man.
This is a complex and clever play that demands complete attention if you
are to fully grasp what is happening. Some of the dialogue is wonderfully
crafted and beautifully written by Tom Stoppard. Although there were times
when I did not have a clue what was going on!
Richard Eyre has brought together a great cast. John Wood plays the elderly A.E.Houseman
with great skill, flickering from painful memories to joyous ones. He is a
pleasure to watch as he gives an extraordinary performance that has to be
one of the best of his career. Paul Rhys, is also impressive as the young
Houseman, a man who is full of energy and passion, yet suffering because
of his love for Jackson. The presence of great actors Michael
Bryant and John Carlisle and the rest of a talented cast enhance the play
further. It is topped off at the end with a great performance by Michael
Fitzgerald as a very convincing Oscar Wilde.
The play has received great reviews from the popular press. JANE EDWARDES
of TIME OUT called the play an, "impressive production." NICHOLAS de JONGH
of THE EVENING STANDARD says, "Sir Tom Stoppard has been inspired to write
the most emotionally powerful and enthralling play of his career." ANDREW
ALDRIDGE of THE STAGE said the play was "An immensely enriching
experience." and CHARLES SPENCER of THE DAILY TELEGRAPH calls the play
The Invention of Love is not an easy play to follow, but it does have some
of the best acting to be seen on the West End stage at the moment.
Page © Elyse Sommer, February 1998