Tag: Denny Lawrence

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 ,

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: Red Stitch Presents BELLEVILLE

Compelling theatre

By Narelle Wood

Belleville by Amy Herzog is a challenging play in that it explores a dysfunctional relationship in a witty, yet brutally honest and often harrowing, way.

Paul Ashcroft and Christina O'Neill in BELLEVILLE Photo Credit Jodie Hutchinson

The story follows a couple of days in the life of Zack (Paul Ashcroft) and Abby (Christina O’Neill), an American couple living and working in France. Apart from language and obvious cultural differences, Abby is still grieving her mother’s death and experiencing homesickness, while Zack is doing what ever he can to make ends meet and Abby happy. Pestered by his landlord Alioune (Renaud Momtbrun) and his wife Amina (Tariro Mavondo) for overdue rent, Zack finds himself more and more desperate to put his life and relationship back on track.

O’Neill and Ashcroft work perfectly together as they negotiate the emotional turmoil of their characters: from deep passion, to exasperation, tenderness, desperation, to outright hatred, these two actors depict it all with a disturbing realism that makes the play both riveting and difficult to watch. O’Neill’s portrayal of Abby is just as complex as her character’s slow mental decline and Ashcroft similarly presents Zack as a multidimensional character who is just as ingratiating as he is completely unappealing.

The Parisian apartment where the play is set is small, but director Denny Lawrence makes maximum use of the available space both on and off stage, with the bedroom and bathroom providing really clever opportunities for costume changes and storyline segues. The use of props, including their placement and movement to different areas of the stage, is very cleverly choreographed. However, what perhaps is the most impressive thing about Lawrence’s direction is the way he has dealt with and enabled the actors to deal with demanding themes and situations.

Although Belleville has some funny moments, it is not a play for escapism or one that will leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. Red Stitch’s latest production expertly provides a dose of relationship realism and is a resolute must-see if you like plays that are expertly staged with a quality script and excellent acting.

Venue: Red Stitch Theatre, 2 Chapel St, St Kilda
Season: Until 31st May, Wed-Fri 8pm, Sat 4pm and 8pm, Sun 6.30pm
Tickets: Full $39| Conc $20
Bookings: http://redstitch.net/bookings/