Terry Saunders is a comic, animator and storyteller and while all three of these bow-strings are in evidence in his new show, Six And A Half Loves, it is without doubt his genius for storytelling - and, of course, writing - which shines the brightest.
The show comprises the tale of three perfect couples; six people who are absolutely meant to be together, and how they love and lose each other, and fall into the arms of others. There are fewer than a hundred of these perfect couples in the world, we are told at the very start, but even these do not always end up together in happy ever afters - life, circumstance and the odd stupid decision can often get in the way. Saunders tells us their stories as his animations scroll through on the big screen, and the names of the three main men involved - Sean, Nigel and Lenny - are projected onto his white t-shirt (which he sports with white trousers, for the sartorially-minded).
For the first twenty minutes, the stories of three couples - I won't divulge whether these are actually the 'perfect' couples or not - are quite distinct. There's Sean quietly simpering after best friend Natalie, poor Nigel who has made his flat a shrine to ex-girlfriend Sue, and Lenny and Kim, the comfy couple who've simply grown apart. As the story unfolds though, their lives intertwine in all sorts of ways, from passionate one night stands which somehow last for months, to brief meetings in bars and stations. The strands are deftly and impressively woven together, but even more brilliant are the tiny motifs - songs, tears, even milk - that subtly crop up at key moments to remind you of previous scenes and situations. In fact, I felt I'd like to have been handed a script at the end, just to go back and check I hadn't missed any clever little connections.
This may not be a show to make you consistently laugh out loud, but the laughs are certainly there if you keep your wits about you; lines such as "the weekends were long, and the weeks even longer" are delivered with a sparkle in the eye but could easily be missed. The only slight issue with this show then is that the animations - while providing some nice visual gags along the way and always lovely to look at - do not add as much to the story as one might hope. Luckily, the story is so finely conceived and beautifully written, very little needs adding.