On paper, Love Sick shouldn’t work at all. The plot’s wafer-thin, the set is minimal, and the whole thing’s delivered in a truly ludicrous accent – best described as a demented blend of South African and Jamaican. But as it turns out, Amalia Vitale and Stephen Sobal have chosen the ideal vehicle for their considerable comedy talents; in their hands, Love Sick becomes an exquisitely joyful, and occasionally heartfelt, show.
The storyline – such as it is – runs as follows. A pair of aliens, from a far-away planet “not unlike Croydon”, face imminent death from a devastating illness that’s wiping out their race. Comically misinterpreting a radio transmission from Earth, our star-travelling duo come to believe that human love is the only cure for their disease. So they embark on a mission to land on our planet and find out what “love” really means.
What ensues is a series of sketches, built round recorded vox-pop interviews where Earthlings explain to the hapless aliens just how to get it on. They obtain advice on dating, which (needless to say) they completely misunderstand; there’s an initially-tasteful sex scene, which rapidly degenerates into what might possibly be the funniest moment of audience interaction from this or any Fringe. There’s an old-fashioned marriage, a cruelly-casual break-up, and a touching reconciliation. I have to hand it to them: in this play, none of love’s labours is lost.
Each of these scenarios is milked for all it’s worth – and there, I think, lies Love Sick’s one weakness. If there happens to be a scene you don’t quite connect with, there’s an awful lot of elongated humour to sit through before the next sketch comes along. For me, that moment came when the petite lady alien started lip-synching the roars of mighty animals, though it must be said that the rest of the audience was guffawing heartily along.
But the hiatus did give me time to look beyond the antics – and to realise that they’re performed with considerable hidden skill. Vitale works the audience, delivering a mix of faux naïveté and sharp asides, and employing an engaging mix of mood and tone which stays just the right side of over-acting. Sobal, meanwhile, plays the quiet confused alien with a gentle hint of pathos, a loveable counterpoint to Vitale’s confident charm.
It’s sharp, it’s funny, and their conclusion on what love’s really all about is (in its own way) quite profound. For a laugh-along show that’ll brighten your Fringe, Love Sick’s all you need.