The Basement (fmr. Silo)
March 6-9 | Reviewed by Imogen Neale

WHAT IS LOVE? Or more to the contemporary point, what is LUV?

Is it simply a quick way to txt, msn, pxt or post, ‘love’?

Perhaps.

But perhaps it’s also something more insidious. A short, often shouted (hence the caps) sharp word that bends love (the cuddling, kissing, making muffins on a Sunday morning type) into a vapid, fleeting something you txt to someone at 3am from the back of a no-frills taxi having just decoded their number from the pen scribble on the back of your hand. The type of love someone feels compelled to email their partner when, over breakfast, a balled up receipt for the hotel recommended Hot Girls Here nightclub tumbles out of their pocket. The type of love that drives first-year females to get their hair, fingernails, toenails, eyebrows and eyelashes done in the hope the hot guy three rows back might just take his Prada glasses off long enough to see them.

LUV love.

Where has it come from? New technologies? New media? New world expectations?

Exactly! contends LUV, playwright Thomas Sainsbury’s latest theatrical offering.

Working along a disconnected-storylines-become-connected trajectory, LUV follows the imploding lives of a group of dysfunctional 20-35 year-olds. From the 20-ish fashion student slash model (played with sashaying brilliance by Hannah Marshal), to her repulsively selfish boyfriend (Todd Emerson), to the pants-pulled-up-high psychotic txt stalker (the plays strongest character thanks to Stephen Fitzgibbon’s emotional investment in the character), to a mid-30’s young woman who woos a certain celebrity by having sex with his friends, the characters are untied by one thing: their relentless search for LUV love.

By leaving the ex-Silo, now The Basement, space in a rather undressed state, Sainsbury allows the tragedy that underpins their misguided plights to grab, and hold, our attention. Indeed, there isn’t even anything so much as a re-arranged couch, a lights out/change of scene or any time-has-passed muzak.

All we have to watch is love collapsing into LUV.

The cast shifts between stories and characters with ease; one moment Morgana O’Reilly is all white-coated Dr-patient formality, the next she’s a club-hottie swinging her lyrca clad backside to a soundtrack that could have been supplied by Mai FM. And, although the pace they set is fast with one thread of the story walking out stage left as the next walks in stage right, at no point is the audience left wondering what and who they’re watching.

There is at least one glitch with this method of storytelling though: sometimes talent isn’t enough to perform all the roles an actor is charged with.

So, while Todd Emerson does a vain young gay male and a ruthless self-obsessed boyfriend flawlessly, an arrogant hulking league player he does not. And it’s not through lack of trying. In fact it’s far more superficial than that: he just doesn’t look, move, sound or flex like a league player. And how could he? He’s at least 40kg too light.

I haven’t asked Sainsbury, but I imagine this character has always caused him a problem as the league star plays a pivotal part in a strong storyline but to be performed convincingly (for me at least) he needs a physical presence the other male characters don’t. So what to do? Cast another actor to perform his, and only his, role? No. That would disrupt the plays fluidity. Change the character? Make him a tennis player or a long distance runner say? No. That would deny the play a very pertinent storyline. So?

Don’t look at me. I don’t know the answer either.

Well perhaps I do. It may simply be that I need to do something about my lack of imagination. Indeed I’ll be very interested to see if others find Todd’s lack of neck-wings and leg of ham forearms a problem.

For, other than this, Sainsbury and the LUV cast deliver an affecting, tragically comic exploration of contemporary love gone LUV (lol :) :)).