Tag: Mike Bartlett

REVIEW: Red Stitch Presents LOVE, LOVE, LOVE

Fine performances in difficult play

By Myron My

In June 1967, The Beatles appeared on Our World, the world’s first live television satellite link-up that was watched by roughly 400 million people across the world. While this major event was happening, playwright Mike Bartlett has envisioned a much smaller life-changing moment also occurring. In Love, Love, Love, presented by Red Stitch and directed by Denny Lawrence, two free-spirited nineteen year-olds meet for the first time in a small London flat. Sparks are immediate, and we visit their relationship again in 1990, and then in 2011.

Directed by Denny Lawrence ,  CAST  : ELLA CALDWELL, PAUL ASHCROFT : JORDAN FRASER TRUMBLE , RORY KELLY & JEM NICHOLAS
Directed by Denny Lawrence ,
CAST : ELLA CALDWELL, PAUL ASHCROFT : JORDAN FRASER TRUMBLE , RORY KELLY & JEM NICHOLAS

The chance encounter between Kenneth and Sandra (Paul Ashcroft and Ella Caldwell) in the first act is full of excitement and energy and there is a genuine spark between the two actors. With the addition of Jordan Fraser-Trumble as Kenneth’s more conservative older brother, the script develops at a solid pace. However, the following two acts struggled to retain my interest as much as the first. There was nothing engaging or new about what I was watching and it culminated in a pseudo-ending with white middle-class people complaining about how hard life is. It reached the point where the characters themselves become far less likeable, especially Sandra who ends up resembling a B-grade character from Absolutely Fabulous.

For their part though, Caldwell and Ashcroft put in solid performances and watching them interact on stage together was a highlight of the whole production. It’s a shame these impressive actors weren’t given something more substantial into which they could sink their teeth. Rory Kelly and Jem Nicholas do well with their roles as Kenneth and Sandra’s children, Jamie and Rosie, despite how terribly they are written. I was also quite impressed with Fraser-Trumble, and would have liked to see him and his character return later in the story.

I am still amazed at the visual transformations of the stage space in Red Stitch shows. I can’t recall a season where it has been anything but inspiring, and the same can be said about Love, Love, Love. The costumes by Sophie Woodward and set design by Jacob Battista are appealing and well-presented, although the second act takes place in 1990 but still had a strong 80s feel to it visually.

The direction started off strong and felt very alive and in the moment but by the time we got to the final act, it seemed to become unimaginative and almost lazy. The actors appeared to be stuck trying to keep the momentum gathering, while the storyline became mundane and predictable. A potential plot with Jamie was incredulously ignored and I was baffled as to why we ended up dealing with the chosen issues.

Despite the positive start to Love, Love Love, from the second act onwards the hard work begins to slowly unravel. Even with the great performances by the two leads, it is one of the less memorable works put to stage by Red Stitch.

Venue: Red Stitch Actors Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St. Kilda.
Season: Until 4 July | Wed- Sat 8:00pm, Sat 3:00pm, Sun 6:30pm
Tickets: $37 Full | $20-27 Conc
Bookings: Red Stitch Actors Theatre

Image by Jodie Hutchinson

REVIEW: MTC Presents COCK

Disappointingly flaccid

By Ross Larkin

Cock by Mike Bartlett is essentially about an egocentric, painfully nervous and confused young man named John, who ‘must’ decide whether he is gay, straight or bisexual, and more importantly whether he will choose his male partner of seven years, or a new woman who has caught his attention. Staged in one small room on a floor of wall-to-wall cushions, this production is a dialogue-driven piece directed by MTC’s associate director, Leticia Caceres.

Cock

Primarily a three-hander between John (Tom Conroy) and his two love interests (who are never referred to by name, presumably to emphasise John’s self-absorbed world), Cock is perhaps so-called to describe John in nature, and not solely in reference to the play’s sexual explorations.

In fact, the character of John, who keeps his admirers (played by Angus Grant and Sophie Ross) dangling like puppets while he agonises over what he wants, who he is and who he will choose, is so excruciatingly frustrating and unlikeable that ‘who cares?’ might seem the more apt question.This subsequently begs the question of how plausible it is then that two intelligent, attractive and grounded people would loathe themselves so fully they allow such a dithering idiot to toy with their emotions so blatantly.

This is milked to the point of the three meeting for dinner to discuss (read, ‘bitch about’) who deserves John most, who is better suited and ultimately, who will win him over. All the while a bumbling mess, John has the audacity to believe he is worthy of such idolisation, and that the situation he has created is by no means ridiculous, unfair or narcissistic.

Yet, he also has no qualms about taking Cock’s 100-minute duration to decide as the story goes back and forth ad nauseam, with the all-too-occasional laugh, and the incredulous trivialisation of sexuality which is not only insulting to women, but also bisexuals. Thankfully, Sophie Ross’s portrayal of John’s female counterpart is understated, beautiful and perhaps the only likeable character, who might put you in mind of an Aussie Jennifer Lawrence. Likewise, talented songstress Missy Higgins has provided some beautifully haunting music played throughout the odd interlude: however it simply doesn’t belong.

Unfortunately Cock isn’t dark and beautiful: it’s irritating and shallow, bitchy and clichéd and the same point has never been drilled home more than it is with the disappointing Cock.

Cock is playing now at the Arts Centre, 100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne, until March 22, 2014 at 8pm with some 4pm Saturday matinees and a 6.30pm performance on Tuesday March 4. For more information or to book tickets go to www. artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on or phone 1300 182 1831300 182 1831300 182 1831300 182 183.