A Change in the Weather (2017)

Jon Sanders explores the changing nature of love over time in a poetic project that blurs improvised theatre and real life.

Dancing to the End of Love

by Alexa Dalby

A Change in the Weather

CAUTION: Here be spoilers

In an idyllic summer setting in rural southeastern France, a theatre director, his actress wife, a small group of actors and a musician get together for a week in a picturesque gîte to create a play through improvisation. It’s also the death throes of a marriage.

Lydia (Anna Mottram) has been a supportive wife to Dan (Bob Goody) for almost 40 years of marriage, perhaps at the expense of her own ambitions, now so long stifled that she has difficulty remembering what they were. Dan is creative, successful and selfish, sensitive to his actors yet insensitive to her, hardly even bothering to hide his indifference and irritation with her after so many years. The piece the group is improvising is based on the marriage of two characters called Bernard and Elsa – to all intents and purposes Lydia and Dan – with three actresses playing Elsa at different stages of her life. Young Elsa is mercurial German actress and singer Meret Becker, mature Elsa is Monica (Maxine Finch) and finally she’s played by Lydia herself. The process of creating character is probing and intense. The melancholy, specially composed music by Douglas Finch (also performed by him) hints from the start that all is not well. Finally the intensity of creating the project together triggers Lydia to acknowledge that love has died.

The story is told in often unexplained, short, sometimes disconnected episodes, mainly from Lydia’s viewpoint. She has a middle-class reserve and seems somehow always on the edge of the company, so lonely that she sees visions of a dead friend. All the dialogue, including that of a crucially important two-handed scene, has clearly been improvised, yet the effect is, against expectation, to make it seem less naturalistic rather than more so, and the acting more apparent. Reality and fiction and fiction become so blurred between Lydia and Dan as they confront their marriage that even they become confused as to where one ends and the other begins.

Director Jon Sanders (Painted Angels), Mottram and Goody previously worked together on Back to the Garden and Late September and they are longtime collaborators. A Change in the Weather is a mannered meditation on affluent people’s first-world problems, its slow reveal making it a compelling conundrum at times. Its most poetic and memorable scene is an improvisation with a life-size male puppet, with a human animator as for War Horse, dressed to imply it’s Bernard. As the three Elsas dance with it in turn, its movements subtly age it from young man to old. At moments of theatre like this, the film infuses the level of meaning into its painful subject matter that you feel it intended to.

A Change in the Weather is released on 7 July 2017 in the UK.

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