I had not particularly appreciated Danny
Worters as an actor before this. He has one of those faces whose
default state is a mild smile: not a smirk, but it can look as if he is
constantly trying to ingratiate or endear himself, and so detract from
the performance he gives. But as Craig, the focal point of Robin
Hooper's play, Worters' natural attitude works well. Craig is in an
awkward, insecure position, yet wants to remain on the right side of
everyone: Leyla, the Turkish woman who has become one of his best
friends in east London; Emin, her husband, with whom Craig falls in
undeclared love while Leyla is away and who responds with Islamic
nobility and an equal though Platonic affection; Bill, the lover whose
forbearance and constancy Craig is taking for granted throughout the
Emin business. The only person for whom he does not care at all is his
father Joe, who is clearly a manipulative, racist piece of work but
whose particular rift with Craig is never adequately explained.
Hooper turns out the occasional overwritten line, but the tone of this
90-minute piece as a whole is rather the opposite: we are forever
waiting for something to actually happen. Even when Joe's streak of
violent menace becomes apparent, the play never moves into gear.
Director Paul Miller has kept a tight lid on anything approaching
sensationalism, and while this respects the author's musings about
race, religion and sexuality, it cripples any sense of drama. Indeed,
it takes a while to realise that there is substance here, after an
opening scene which matches Worters in his standard mode with Esin
Harvey, who is simply unable achieve any depth or naturalness in her
portrayal of Leyla. Luckily, Aykut Hilmi as Emin and Nicolas Tennant as
Bill have the lion's share of the action apart from Craig... but the
term "action" is stretching matters somewhat. Not The Love I Cry For
more overwrought than anything else in the work) feels like notes
towards, or a rough draft of, a finished play: Hooper has characters,
events and themes all ready, but they lack the breath of life, and are
further hindered by Miller's damped-down direction.
Written for the Financial Times.