When someone kisses you passionately on the mouth, it's surprisingly difficult not to kiss them back. This isn't a lesson I was expecting to learn when I took my seat at the Assembly Roxy for L.O.V.E., Volcano Theatre's three-hander based on Shakespearean sonnets. But there you are. It's probably not the first time a Fringe show has begun with performers fondling audience.
L.O.V.E. is entirely about sex, but moments of genuine sexiness are few and far between in this show. It's only on the handful of occasions when tenderness rather than lust is the dominant mood that the performers—who enact a love triangle made up of 'the poet' and the woman and man to whom the Bard writes—achieve their aim. There's nothing less sexy than trying to be sexy.
All three are capable verse-speakers, bringing vividness to lines that we rarely hear read aloud. But imbuing every single quatrain and couplet with aggressive sexual charge is a mistake. There's simply too much acting going on here. And because the tone of the show is frenzied from the start and stays that way, the actors have nowhere to go with their performances.
Some of the choreography is compelling and when the performers break out of their "best thespy voices" (one of the character's words, not ours), there's nicely observed humour in their informal, irreverent exchanges. If only the show as a whole could take itself as lightly as its cast does at these rare moments.