Space Age Love Songs is a strange little beastie. It’s a fascinating play by TL Wiswell that sits in-between genres, at times confusing, but also compelling, packed with lovely moments and a fairly obscure soundtrack of alternative 80s music.
Set in a small town in America in 1983, it’s the story of Cami, a young girl, with goth leanings played with an appealing innocence by Reanne Black, like a mix of Ayra Stark and Wyona Ryder in Beetlejuice. Cami lives with her uncaring and fairly aggressive mother, just one of the roles played by Eleanor Burke, who brings some real zip, zing and comedy timing to the play. In a twist on ‘boy meets girl’ the main story here is when Cami meets and becomes friends at school with the outrageous Daniel, an out gay boy who also performs at the local night club. Daniel, played with confidence by Robert Twaddle reminds me in many ways of the lead character in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie and this play definitely shares some DNA with that show. The entire cast is strong, all six actors showcase a range of skills including impressive American accents and lively dance routines.
Space Age Love Songs, is not a musical, it’s a play with music and the soundtrack is the 1980s that belonged to Heaven 17, Gary Numan, Ultravox, Lene Lovich, OMD, Siouxsie and The Banshess, Sparks and more. This is not a greatest hits show, the music represents the world that Cami escapes into, a world where Daniel and his in the closet boyfriend Matt are actually androids on a mission to Earth. This aspect is actually slightly confusing in places and the narrative is not always easy to follow, but in a world where shows are built on the briefest of ideas it’s refreshing to find one that almost has too many.
The play is not perfect, apart from the narrative issues, there are too many silent gaps, crying out for music, and this is a work that demands attention from the audience. It is something that has been written from the heart with interesting well written characters and dialogue, the ideas are imaginative and what it really needs is more of an audience to make it sparkle, which I think it can. Dave Cross