By Lois Maskiell
Melbourne-based actor Lucy Moir plays Joan, a married and shrewd business woman in the recent production of Love Song at this year’s Melbourne Fringe. In an interview that took place just after the preview, Lucy shared her insights about the piece. “(Y)ou could say it’s a play about mental illness,” she said, “but really, it’s about taking life on, taking it into your own hands and making it your own.”
Love Song was premiered in Chicago, 2006 by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and has since been performed in London, Rome, Aukland, Seoul, Tel Aviv and Melbourne with MTC’s 2008 production. Its success can be attributed to its simplicity, as its playwright John Kolvenbach has plainly remarked: “(I)t’s about a very lonely guy who finds love”.
Beane (Nicholas Denton) lives in a barren apartment, stripped of all superfluous possessions (he eats from a cup), while his sister Joan’s apartment shines of order with a sleek sofa, a carefully placed pot-plant and a never-ending supply of wine that quenches her post-work worries. When Molly (Bonnie Moir) bursts onto the scene to burglarise Beane’s apartment, the audience is confronted with a hot-tempered outlaw – one who takes pleasure in her crimes and cannot stand the fact that Beane’s apartment is void of any sentimental objects, whereupon there isn’t even a photograph.
The emotionally eccentric Beane falls madly in love with Molly. All of a sudden, the world excites, rather than depresses him. “When he suddenly has this life force it’s like Joan doesn’t know how to handle it” said Lucy. Beane’s new-found exuberance confronts his sister, provoking a hilariously embarrassing moment in public over a turkey sandwich. It even encourages a spark of romance between Joan and her good-humoured husband Harry (Jordan Fraser-Trumble): a spark that eases their habitual bickering.
The opposing yet complimentary temperaments of Joan and Harry make their relationship so believable. “The contrast is certainly in the text to an extent. I mean, the writing is so beautiful,” said Lucy, “but we definitely made a conscious decision to make this a relationship of routine and compatibility.” The habitual and routine are common themes throughout the play. For Lucy, Kolvenbach is “looking at how easy it is to fall into the familiar trap of routine” and that “whatever you do, run away from that!”
The couple’s tired relationship takes a positive turn towards the end of the piece, and “(i)t was important for us that Joan and Harry have this kind of dysfunctional chaos in the beginning so that they can really fall for each other again later on,” said Lucy.
Molly’s metatheatrical cry “Death to literalism” is a quip about the role of illusion and fantasy in the play. Perhaps Kolvenbach is commenting on the relationship between romance, delusion and reality. And while the fear of being delusional is real, it is only through our imaginations that one can truly come to terms with existence.
When asked what she thought about Kolvenbach’s point, Lucy responded that “Ultimately, he is pointing out that life can be pretty rough sometimes. And whatever you need to do to get to a place where you can see the beauty in all the chaos, then do it.” Joan and her brother Beane arrive at this place in a disarmingly funny manner, highlighting that “there is a fine line between comedy and tragedy,” as Lucy noted in the interview, “and while Joan takes things very seriously,” she continued, “we laugh at the absurdity and humanity of it all.”
Love Song is an offbeat romantic comedy that Francis Greenslade has directed with a polished sitcom sensibility, outstandingly performed by its entire cast. The timing and energy between the actors brought the lyric humour of the play to life as well as the carefully opposed natures of Kolvenbach’s characters. There is no doubt that this strength of timing is due to Greenslade’s direction. “Francis’ comedy and sense of tempo have been a massive part of getting this production up,” shared Lucy. “He is hilarious yet has this beautiful sensitivity when it comes to drama. It’s been a real lesson in comedy and timing though- and playing for truth rather than laughs.”
The Collingwood Arts Precinct venue is the perfect place to see theatre at the Fringe, capturing both the spirit of the festival and the playful nature of the production. In a warehouse location with a set designed by Sophie Woodward, the audience is positioned in the centre, on rotating chairs with the action taking place around them (you will have to see for yourself!). If you hadn’t already attended a Fringe show, I hope you too broke your routine and ran away to the theatre for an evening to see Love Song.
Love Song ran until the 30th of September, 2017 for the Melbourne Fringe Festival.
Review originally published on Words of Muses.