Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Love Child by Joanna Murray-Smith, March 13, 2007

Love Child by Joanna Murray-Smith
HIT Productions
Athenaeum Theatre March 13, then touring Victoria: Sale Mar 20, Warragul Mar 22, South Morang March 24, 2007
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on March 13, 2007

How does one get to know an intimate stranger? That is, how does one handle the first meeting with the child – or the mother - one has never known? Joanna Murray-Smith’s play, Love Child, directed deftly by Bruce Myles, depicts one such meeting of mother and daughter.

In 1968, at the age of 17, Anna (Amanda Muggleton) gave up her baby for adoption and moved on with her life at university as a political activist and then with her work as a documentary film editor. After 25 years, she receives a letter from young soap opera star, Billie (Melinda Dransfield), and the pair meet at Anna’s home for their mother-daughter reunion.

The meeting is awkward – well - perhaps excruciating is a more fitting description. The two are completely mismatched. Anna is reserved, polite and neat. Billie is voluble, intrusive, messy, egotistical, insecure and – let’s be honest – thoroughly dislikeable. It is astonishing that Anna allows her to stay longer than 10 minutes.

Billie expected someone more motherly while Anna simply tries to cope with having a guest in her private, sterile, designer home (Judith Cobb). Anna grew out of the feminist revolution that broke the patterns of gender politics while Billie has no appreciation of the political change wrought by the previous

generation of women.

Love Child is an uncomfortable ride. Like both characters, we are hoping for harmony and love but the Age of Aquarius is long gone. Director, Bruce Myles, accentuates the discomfort and dissonance throughout the play.

Muggleton is brittle and edgy as Anna who only thinly disguises her emotional fragility with her crisp designer outfits. Dransfield plays Billie as smug, judgmental and demanding, her ulterior motives being hidden until the final moments.

Murray-Smith propels the relationship from discomfort through conflict into complete breakdown. There is an unhealthy blend of guilt and revenge, concern and punishment.

The dialogue is like a Socratic argument between generations. Billie sometimes becomes more of a voice of her generation rather than a character. The pair are polar opposites and, to some degree, stereotypes.

It is the final revelation by Billie that shocks us. How callous is this girl and how selfish?

By Kate Herbert

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