A real, frank look at love, with a cwtch in the middle, Carys Eleri's Lovecraft is not (directly) about the sex shop in Cardiff. Emily Garside reviews:

Carys Eleri wants to talk about love. But she doesn’t want to ‘heart’ you, she wants to ‘brain you’. Lovecraft (Not the Sex Shop in Cardiff) is a cabaret-musical-stand-up performance about the science of love. Imagine if Brian Cox started including songs about boobs in his arena tours (which frankly, he should).

Loveraft is an incredibly personal story as Eleri takes us through first loves, bad boyfriends, single life adventures and loneliness. Mixed in are a variety of songs, from the opening rap ‘Love Craft’ to sweet and funny ballads. They may be silly on the surface, but the music displays Eleri’s skilful songcraft and beautiful singing voice, while also doing some good old fashioned musical storytelling. As a piece the evening veers from stand-up to monologue to musical with a bit of science thrown in. On paper, it shouldn’t work – never quite settling on an identity – but director Mared Swain pulls together disparate elements and creates a polished show with just enough scope for Eleri to be spontaneous and engage with the crowd.

The ‘science bit’ is woven in with humour and accompanied by a series of animated slides (by Animation Designer Lauren Orme). Linked to stories from her own life, Eleri pulls science from real examples to explain how love works in our brains (and bodies). It’s well researched and fascinating, and any performance that provides a reading list for the audience is something a bit special. Lovecraft is proof that science can be entertaining, but is also able to fuse real entertainment with a great deal of knowledge. This may in fact create a whole new sub-genre of cabaret performances – the musical comedy lecture.

Lovecraft however is far from a lecture. What Eleri has created is, fittingly, one of the most heart-warming pieces of work. She starts by inviting the audience to ‘cwtch’ the person next to them (that’s give them a hug for the non-Welsh readers). That is what this whole show feels like – a cwtch for your brain. As much as it tells of heartbreak and getting it wrong, the tale Eleri weaves – and the science behind it – is that there’s lots of different ways to feel loved. Her tales of love and loneliness are an honest and open insight into modern interpreations, but they’re also crafted into a story that is better told than most ‘big’ plays and musicals.

Lovecraft (Not The Sex Shop In Cardiff) is funny and irreverent, at times rowdy, at times ridiculous, all of which feels very true to any modern love story. You’ll get a cwtch at the start, learn some science in the middle, and come out realising love comes in many forms (including, yes, that sex shop in Cardiff).

 

 

★★★★☆

Lovecraft (Not The Sex Shop In Cardiff) ran at the Wales Millennium Centre until 16 July 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.