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Review: A Billion Times I Love You at Liverpool Everyman ****

Patrick Maguire’s intensely realised love story A Billion Times I Love You won the new writing award at last year’s Homotopia Festival.

That has now translated to a well-deserved world premiere run for the Young Everyman Playhouse Writer's programme graduate on the Ev’s main stage, complete with a soundtrack from Liverpool band Crawlers.

Is it too large a space for what is an intimate, 65-minute studio-style two-hander? There was I suppose always that potential, but happily Olivia du Monceau’s simple but effective diamond-shaped staging design, coupled with movement director Grace Goulding’s expansive choreography and the performances themselves successfully fill the space.

Jesse (Mary Higgins) and Taylor (Melissa Lowe) are two young women in the throes of a relationship that turns out to be a lot more complex than we might imagine when we first meet the pair dancing around their living room in what appears to be harmonious abandon, late night music booming out so loudly it prompts furious hammering from an unseen neighbour.

It soon becomes clear though that along with bursts of harmony there’s also discord there, and for everything that is said, more remains unsaid – at the beginning at least.

Above: Taylor (Melissa Lowe) and Jesse (Mary Higgins) in A Billion Times I Love You. Credit: Mairi Bell-Moodie

What has led up to this point? What is the pair’s back story? Maguire reveals some, although not all, of it to us in the ensuing conversations, jealousies, arguments, silences and reconciliations that anyone, whoever they might be but who has ever found themselves in an intense relationship, might recognise.

But there a further layer here with a trauma in the mercurial Taylor’s past, the nature of which is more hinted at than explicitly articulated but which at times imposes itself explosively on the present, while teacher Jesse has found herself in the role of the sensible, steadying peacemaker. Yet both, it becomes apparent, have their own vulnerabilities.

There’s clever use of the sparse staging, populated by two simple storage benches which are moved closer together or pushed further apart as the action unfolds, symbolically mirroring the ebb and flow of the pair's relationship which whatever its challenges remains tightly (at times claustrophobically) within its borders.

While occasionally Maguire’s dialogue makes it feel like we’re onlookers in a jargon filled therapy session, the performances of both Higgins and Lowe make A Billion Times I Love You a compelling watch.

And it’s great that a lesbian centred love story is being given a prominent mainstream run.


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