Out of Love

Elinor Cook’s new play ‘Out of Love’ tells a tale of friendship, love and rivalry spanning over thirty years. It explores all the various forms of love, but above all, the fiery and relentless love that is found between two particular female friends. Lorna (Sally Messham) and Grace (Katie Elia-Salt) have been friends for forever, from childhood neighbours to teenage rivals and to complex adult women. They learn how to be women together; to touch themselves, to kiss, to have sex, to deal with their families, to manipulate boys and to understand their bodies. Cook’s evocative text beautifully propels their relationship on an eloquent journey of growing, loving and coping with life.

It was refreshing to see the true depths of female friendship play out in this intimate space. Romantic relationships were gratifyingly skipped over, as Lorna and Grace’s enduring love and hate for one another dominated the script. Messham and Elia-Salt lit up the stage with their love for one another. Their emotional reliance on each other as they dealt with their families, school, boys and breakups in a small working-class Welsh town in the nineties was tender and intense. They spend all waking hours together and when Lorna starts making other friends, Grace even demands that she asks permission.

Things develop as the girls grow up. Their relationship with their own bodies is interesting, Grace is envious of Lorna’s womanly figure and Lorna is self –conscious of it. Grace loves sex while Lorna doesn’t see the point, ‘it’s all for the men’ she says. Even so, she can’t escape male attention and is barely single after the age of thirteen. Grace’s insistence that there’s something in sex for women and her excitement at touching herself indicates her independence. At moments struck with bold feminist ideas, Grace deplores the treatment of the forgotten women, forced to ‘just get on with it’, for instance when the coal mines closed, or when their husbands cheated, died or wound up in jail. Neither of the girls wanted to stay in their village, both longing to escape the small-minded oppressive backwater that they grew up in.

Their lives go in different directions when Grace gets pregnant and Lorna goes to university. All of Grace’s dreams come crashing down, as she is forced ‘to just get on with it’. What else could she have done under the circumstances? Lorna becomes a successful newspaper editor in London and Grace’s life stays pretty much the same, as she cares for her bedridden father, brings up her baby and deals with the deaths of everyone she knows. Both women carry the weight of their childhood love and friendship for the rest of their lives. When the play draws to a close they seem more in love than ever, having grown together, grown apart and then found each other again.

This is a beautiful tale of tender love and an angry cry of protest at the paths some women have to take due to circumstance. Cook’s gorgeous writing dips in and out of time and, as everything changes, one love remains constant. Do not miss this touching, intimate and thought-provoking new play at the Roundabout in Summerhall.

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Jane Prinsley

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