Fringe Theatre

No Love Songs

Traverse Theatre


I don’t want to admit that I cried (a lot), but it’s important that you know what you’re in for with this show. I also laughed out loud, wanted to sing along and to shout out with frustration. It’s a rollercoaster of a gig-musical, with songs by The View’s Kyle Falconer.

Falconer has devised No Love Songs with his partner, Laura Wilde. The dynamic has added a gritty, relatable nuance to the relationship at its core. We meet Lana (Dawn Sievewright) and Jessie (John McLarnon) on the night of their first encounter. Lana is getting ready for her first night out at university, and Jessie is getting ready for a gig. As if by theatre magic, they’re heading to the same place. After a meeting of cider (with a straw) fuelled chemistry, the pair head home together.

And that’s it. The arc goes from strangers to soulmates for our two protagonists. Lana is now expecting a baby, and everything seems harmonious for the couple. There are money troubles, and they’re going to have to Google everything to do with childcare, but they love each other. This is something they’re tackling together, as the ‘dream team’.

This illusion soon melts away. Jessie’s band has been offered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tour America. With their newborn child attached to her chest, Lana feels she can’t hold Jessie back. So off he goes, literally into the sunset, leaving her alone in the flat with their child.

Lana struggles on her own, falling into a bottomless pool of postnatal depression. Sievewright’s performance is phenomenal. From peppy Lana at the start of the play, a young woman bubbling with opportunity and self-discovery, to a mother suffering beyond means, she masters her character and her craft. She’s brilliant and has a stellar voice. Her Lana is fully formed before your eyes, and you feel your heart break for her. Lana is unable to enjoy the moments that she’s told she should be treasuring, and Sievewright portrays this conflict with a tender friction. You watch her wilt away.

Jessie comes home. Too late, but he comes home. We watch the pair figure things out together now. I think it’s McLarnon’s performance that holds the production back, or maybe it’s how Jessie’s written. McLarnon is incredibly musically gifted, but his performance is two-dimensional and lacks the depth of his counterpart. He’s either forlorn, elated or terrified, and the story has more layers than that. At least I think it does – or perhaps Sievewright is just too good.

It’s a gutsy, bold and highly enjoyable production that I’m sure will go far. The staging is cool and fun, and there’s definitely an electric buzz to the piece – co-directors Andrew Panton and Tashi Gore have excelled in this Dundee Rep production. The music’s full of great indie riffs and classic observational imagery – but there’s definitely more love songs than the name suggests.

Grace Sansom is working with The Herald for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe's prestigious Emerging Critics Scheme. Read more of her reviews here and here