Is this love?

Photo: James Royall

Tuesday 24th June, 2008 | Posted by Caroline Graty

Perhaps appropriately for a discussion about physical theatre, psychoanalyst Phil Stokoe is standing on a chair. He is demonstrating the limitations of idealisation. ‘There is no movement on a pedestal’ he says. ‘Take a step, and I’m flat on my face.’

Phil Stokoe and Mary Morgan were talking to the artistic directors of theatre company Frantic Assembly, Steven Hoggett and Scott Graham. In their latest production, Stockholm, Todd and Kali, an apparently perfect couple, invite the audience into their lives. The audience then watches as the veneer of perfection is scratched away, revealing a cycle of violence and denial.

The discussion tackled the difficult question of what ‘love’ really is. ‘We made a commitment not to judge’, says Graham. ‘When people [in an abusive relationship] are asked ‘why do you stay with him?’ they will say ‘because I love him’… They believe it at the time.’ Though Todd and Kali’s relationship may seem like anything but love to the audience, they identify their extremes of emotion as love.

In psychoanalytic terms, Stokoe says that Frantic Assembly has created ‘a brilliant example of borderline personality disorder’. He goes on to explain that we all develop an internal emotional skeleton, which supports us in times of anxiety. However people with borderline personality disorder don’t have this skeleton, and instead cling to someone else to provide their emotional support. An intense merger of two people is created which can feel like love, but, unlike love, cannot handle any notion of separateness.

As Mary Morgan says, ‘Relationships can be creative, but only from the perspective of two separate people.’ In an imbalanced relationship, the threat of separation can be an explosive, destructive force, as Todd and Kali chillingly demonstrate.

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