Friday, 22 February 2013

Love Me Tender, Mutation Theatre, Feb 22, 2013 **

By Tom Holloway, Mutation Theatre
Theatreworks, until March 2, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Review  in Herald Sun online on Sunday FEb 24 and in print on Tues Feb 26 (TBC). KH
Nick Pelomis, Brendan Barnett, James Tresise 
Love Me Tender, first produced in 2010, is not one of Tom Holloway’s best plays and its post-dramatic, deconstructed script, and this rather portentous production become annoyingly cryptic rather than evocative.

The script is episodic, fragmented, intermittently poetic, abstracted, topical or witty, with a purported referencing of Euripides Ancient Greek play, Iphigenia in Aulis, in which Agamemnon sacrifices his daughter to the Gods to receive a wind to blow his ships to Troy.

There is no linear narrative in Holloway’s text, but there are themes, characters and some elements of story and, although we do not expect resolution in this style of play, the thematic links and references don’t pay off and the outcome is ultimately profoundly unsatisfying.

The Father (Brendan Barnett), a firefighter, first grapples with the messy birth of his baby daughter (or is it a baby deer?), then with his ensuing, intense love, protective impulse and a suggested, more sinister, sexualized relationship with her.

Intercut with his struggle to express his love, are the Mother’s (Sarah Ogden) emerging fears and search for answers and reassurance.

More naturalistic scenes and monologues are interspersed with abstracted dialogues that capture the Father’s struggle to articulate his inchoate feelings and memories through faltering, repetitive speech that is prompted and shaped by the Chorus (Nick Pelomis, James Tresise).

The pervasive sense of foreboding, the Mother’s and Father’s anxieties, the presence of the unseen child, and the frequent references to an impending bushfire, all hint at a grim ending for this family, and particularly for this child.

The Chorus, whose perspective shifts constantly, rants about the freedom available to girls and the need to protect them from predators, but this feminist diatribe then bleeds into a disturbing view of girls as mouth-watering, meaty snacks.

Their Wiggles-style Princess song, morphs into an unsettling bump-and-grind dance for little girls.

The 2010 Sydney production played against a domestic backyard whereas director, Patrick McCarthy, uses here a design as non-specific as the text, comprising huge torn, white fabric smeared with ash, and silvery scraps strewn on the floor.

Although some performances, particularly Ogden, are promising, McCarthy’s production makes Holloway’s already disjointed, contrived script more impenetrable and obtuse. It overplays the ominous sense of premonition and the pace and cueing are so slow that we feel no sympathy.

Kate Herbert

Father Brendan Barnett
Policeman Matthew Epps
Mother Sarah Ogden
Chorus   Nick Pelomis
Chorus James Tresise

Written by Tom Holloway
Directed by Patrick McCarthy
Dramaturg: Brienna Macnish
Set Design by Ashlee Hughes
Lighting Design by Lisa Mibus
Sound Design by Tom Spender
Costume Design by Zoe Rouse

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