What a gift to the biographers, what an inspiration to the innovators, is the life of mathematician and writer Ada Lovelace. A challenge to the playwrights, maybe, as programming and platonic love play such a part in her mythos. Fortunately, a play has been created that is as intelligent and tragic as its subject; and in where else but this city should action based on the thrilling currency of ideas (and the drudgery of slashed academic funding) receive its taut, moving European première? This is the second such première of Lauren Gunderson's work by ElevenOne Theatre, a company versatile enough to make manifest characters who are definitively 'not just one thing'.
This vivid, brief life (Lovelace died at 36) could've been realised in a one-person show like ElevenOne's Brief Lives, but it's from the tenuous relations between Lovelace and her co-characters that most of the heart-involvement is wrought, even though she's a woman who prefers numbers to people. It's an enigma that Chloe McKenzie is called on to play, from débutante ball to deathbed, but she acts as one full of life, animated by ideas (with the puppyishness of Doctor David Tennant or the 'pure imagination' of Ellen Page in Inception), a steely personality sure of her own mind, and intrigued by her absent father - Lord Byron. Her very mini-expression of curiosity, as her mother bewails the possibility of
Gunderson is similarly inventive - with achievements unequal to her young years (yes,
Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace is a character "made for storytelling" as Gunderson notes in our programme. It's brought to life in stagecraft and song. As the script transitions elegantly from the dramatic to the epistolary, we can tell that the characters are no longer sharing the same space. Annabella Byron encases her daughter in showy crinolines from the costumiers, and sends her to the 'marriage mart', which we only hear on tape. It was Lord B who coined that term, and whose licentiousness is used as a cautionary tale to make