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No Love Songs - Southwark Playhouse Review

Reviewed by Lauren Russell
Tickets were gifted in return for an honest review.

The stage at Southwark Playhouse certainly screamed Gig Theatre; dim and smoky, a moody atmosphere surrounded usas the Beatles played loudly in our ears, the suspense for a bold and heavy love story hangs in the air. However, no one could have prepared me for the rollercoaster of emotions to come from this sensitive, sweet, and soul baring show by the critically acclaimed Dundee Rep Theatre

Anna Russell Martin and John McLarnon. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

‘No Love Songs’ is an original idea by Kyle Falconer and Laura Wilde, with the soundtrack also by Falconer (which I have been playing my headphones every tube journey since watching). It begins like many tales of love: girl meets boy in a busy bar. Jessie is a charming musician played by the brilliant John McLarnon, and Lana is brazen young woman played by the remarkable Anna Russell-Martin. The two Scottish youngsters have a flirty drunk one-night stand which was beautifully choreographed to the start of the soundtrack. Accompanied by musical director Gavin Whitworth, who is sat behind a keyboard in sunglasses, seamlessly playing a wordless member of Jessie’s band. 

The direction, by Andrew Panton and Tashi Gore, made this whirlwind of passion sweet (but not sickly) and full of well delivered comedy. At times, the thick Scottish accent (for a Londoner) and fast paced dialogue meant some of the lines were lost. However, McLarnon and Russell-Martin’s belting vocals kept us mesmerised throughout. Physical touch between the characters was sparse during this show, a deliberate choice by the directors. Even when Lana was giving birth, Jessie was the other side of the stage singing. At times made us desperately want them to hold one another, and our hearts split even more when they did not. Bring tissues is my only advice. 

Lana sinking further into post-natal depression and beingoverwhelmed by her anxiety is extremely moving and I was blown away by Russell-Marie’s whole-hearted commitment to character. Watching as her hand rests on the locked front door unable to convince herself to open it even with her baby boy’s wide eyes encouraging her, defeated she utters ‘Maybe tomorrow.’ –  heartbreaking.

John McLarnon and Anna Russell Martin. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

Admitting aloud truthful emotions like Jessibeing scared to be a father and Lana telling us she’s a terrible mother, is a narrative rarely voiced even though it is regularly felt by new families. Recovering from her breakdown Lana tells us 1 in 5 women experience post-natal depression, which is all the more reason to go see this brilliant show.

A highlight of this production, which I must mention, was the fantastic and atmospheric lighting by Grant Anderson. He has captured the essence of every song and lights up the actor’s captivating performance (literally and metaphorically).

If you are in need of a good old cry and a love story whichpulls at your heart strings, or maybe some new and catchy love songs (which there are many) to belt in the shower - look no further. This poignant and tentative piece of theatre, combined with its powerful soundtrack is everything you need from a piece of Gig Theatre. Don’t miss out.


No Love Songs plays at Southwark Playhouse Elephant until Saturday 15th June. Tickets are available from

Anna Russell Martin and John McLarnon. Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan.

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