In the dizzying haze of Stories from the 428- I didn’t get out much to other theatres- I spent alot of my time with a laptop on my lap top or gesticultating wildly at actors (and occasionally chasing them around rehearsal rooms)… and so was mildly shut off from my regular review circuit. During that time, however, one play was mentioned to me in passing by people who had access to “the outside world” as I remembered it- and that play was none other than Tom Holloway’s Love Me Tender.

I, of course wanted to see this play and I wanted to pay to see it too (recently a facebook friend discovered a rant/article first published on a few years back about the politics of comps and I still hold true to what I said then- PAY FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN!)- so had to wait for the bus to roll on before I could see why everyone was asking me if I’d seen it…

I will also declare that in 2008 (The first year of Brand Spanking New) I commissioned Tom to write (any thing of his chosing) and this was on the back of his AWGIE win… it was a play called ” If I Was to Stay I Would Only Be In Your Way” (it seems song lyrics are prevalent amongst Tom’s titles.) That being said I only met him for the first time last year at the launch of Griffin Theatre Company’s short play compilation: “Short Circuit.” So this is not a review this is a reflection on what I am left with post show. (I didn’t get one of the very schmick programmes with play concealed within- sadly- there were none on the night I went). I am not going to give an account of the story- you can get that from and if you are after the context of Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis- keep an eye on James Waites’s site for a review he’s the master and has a brilliant perspective on this production and he’ll be writing it up soon (so he told me over coffee). My blurt is really what I saw/now remember.

As a co-production between Company B and Griffin Theatre Company- which has a beautiful historical symmetry to it. Belvoir grew out of Nimrod – and here’s the Griffin is (now housed in the old Nimrod space) nurtured by Belvoir in the months leading up to the rennovation of the Stables. Like a set of visual babbushka dolls- I am reminded of the Stables theatre- the show fitting in the Belvoir St Theatre beautifully. There is a lovely symmetry at work spatially- a set made of astro-turf, encased in a perspex sheild- diamond shaped for the Belvoir space- but also reminiscent of the Stables space.

The play opens with rapid fire exposition- a description told with much urgency by Arky Michael and Kris McQuade. And there isn’t much room to ease up once the foot is on this verbal accelarator. We are asked to image/remember alot- too much? We are asked to sit there and ingest a barrage of ideas/commentary as McQuade and Michaels physicalise the visceral poetry of Holloway’s work in their functionary roles of the chorus. Sometimes I found it hard to keep up- hard to listen- and I think that is the point. Alot of this is about the all consuming nature of love- of lust- how images and thoughts and feelings push themselves into us consciously and unconsciously.

Simple and impressive, Lutton’s direction is cleanly/keenly delivered. The play space for the actors is sodden, misted and shiny- glittering under lights. The performances are tight and punchy. It looks like at Lutton show (thanks to Adam Gardnir)- and feels like its coated in STC slickness.

However- looking around the audience of theatre patrons- many were asleep. Drowsy grey haired patrons- sleepy. Was it the mist? Was it the lights? Was it the rapid fire delivery? Why weren’t they awake? Why did I feel sleepy? It felt dreamlike- soft- poetic- and again- I’ll take that as it’s intention. The sneaky, taboo thoughts that press themselves into us are subtle- there is no bolt out of the blue. This is a slow leak suggestion- as sexual suggestiveness can sometimes be- it smears itself across everything like vaseline over a camera lens- and we feel the clarity slip from our thoughts.

BASH! Like being woken by ice water- or the maniacal rattle of an early morning Marrickville jackhammer- the most astounding dance sequence I have seen in the theatre in recent times. Recognisable, raunchy, repulsive, embarrassing: completely perfect. As Belinda McGory writes and gyrates and pulses her gradually soaked body to teenpop obnoxiousness- I am left shaken- horrified and broken in my seat. The sleepy heads regained their posture now their nap had been broken.

The ideas are loud and clear- the sexualisation of children- the tragedy of intimacy- the burden of sacrifice… and I am trapped an unwilling audience watching the horror of what I know too well to be wildy true about the continual sexualisation of children- played out before me. I am glued. I’m not moved. I am stuck staring- gawking compulsively. Gawking. Powerless and gawking. One reviewer said that there was no connection to the audience. Perhaps- this is a telling (not a showing). The connection is more to do with the audience’s imagination than with the actors- moments of this play could have been a radio play- it is in us. That’s the point. That’s the problem. Holloway’s play asks us to listen and think and imagine- there is very little shown… and that is also the art of seduction. I got sucked in. I went there. I was horrified by what I found.

And grateful.