FYI, this date with data is worth it

21st September 2012 at 01:00

Unable to focus for more than three minutes? Love and Information is the play for you.

Caryl Churchill, author of English-curriculum staple Top Girls, has written a play for the information age. This is theatre for the era of soundbites, pseudo-facts and attention deficits. In a series of loosely themed vignettes - some lasting a few minutes, others only seconds - Churchill examines the role that information plays in our lives.

Some people want it; some have it; some presume it. Others use it, forget it, or process it in different ways. Memory is information that can be, or has been, distorted. Paradox is having information, but choosing to act in defiance of it.

And so there is a lab worker, who cuts off chicks' heads to examine their brains. There is the woman given messages by traffic lights, and another who talks to God ("Does He speak RP or have a regional accent?").

There is the new manager, overwhelmed by a vividly sensual childhood memory as she attempts to improve her factual recall. The couple whose wedding-day memories are shaped entirely by their repeat viewings of the video. The man who refuses to recognise his wife, even though she knows things that only his wife can know.

For a play about information, it offers a distinct lack of it. Churchill's script is nothing but a series of exchanges with no context or background information. For the play's debut at London's Royal Court theatre, however, director James Macdonald has turned these vignettes into a series of beautifully detailed snapshots of people's lives.

The lab worker, for example, becomes a woman on a picnic with a date. Elsewhere, a terminally ill woman carries a cycle helmet and reflective jacket. Interestingly, the internet barely appears. There is, however, an insomniac who gets up in the night to check Facebook.

Love and Information is as much about lack of information - about filling in gaps with guesswork and presumption - as it is about its possession. Churchill's trademark half-sentences suit this beautifully: people complete one another's thoughts, imputing meaning to semi-coherence. This is what we all do. We seek out meaning, even when there is none. We take the information we have, and we transform it into something that makes sense to us. Something that, as is the case with this play, can be thought-provoking, and rather lovely.

Review - Love and Information is at the Royal Court, London, until 13 October.

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