Friday, July 17, 2015

Love and Information by Caryl Churchill

Love and Information by Caryl Churchill.  Malthouse Theatre (Melbourne) and Sydney Theatre Company, directed by Kip Williams.  Designer: David Fleischer; Lighting: Paul Jackson; Composer and sound: The Sweats.  At Wharf 1, Sydney, July 9 – August 15, 2015.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
July 15

If you were schizophrenic and heard voices which only told you to hurt one person (who might be your psychiatrist, or perhaps she is really your mother), and this person says to you, “If you took your medication, you wouldn’t hear the voices, would you?”, and you know that’s true, what would you say?

The young man in this scene explains, quite rationally I thought, that that’s why he doesn’t take his medication: he wants to hear the voices to know what to do.

By the time you’ve read this far, the scene is over, the white rostra blocks have been shifted by the cast into a new configuration, and a new scene is already taking place.

Scene setting
Cast - Zahra Newman in spotlight

In this version of Love and Information, Kip Williams and his fast-moving cast – Marco Chiappi, Harry Greenwood, Glen Hazeldine, Anita Hegh, Zahra Newman, Anthony Taufa, Alison Whyte and Ursula Yovich – present 70 of the possibilities provided by Caryl Churchill in her non-narrative exploration of such conundrums.  None of the problematic questions are resolved.  In some situations love seems to depend on receiving or giving information.  In others too much information seems about to ruin a relationship, or be entirely irrelevant.  The reliability of information is often an issue, as much as the quality of love.

Information and love?
Glenn Hazeldine and Ursula Yovich

As a philosophical work, the nearest to a conclusion I could reach was that whether we like it or not we have to accept that the modern discovery of the Uncertainty Principle via the mathematical modelling of the physical universe applies in all aspects of our moment-by-moment lives.

Sister or mother?
Anita Heg and Harry Greenwood

Space for information?
Anita Hegh

Theatrically, it’s most like watching Impro Theatre.  The actors have titles for the scenes to work off – like ‘The Child...Pain’, ‘Earthquake’, ‘Wedding Video’ or ‘Depression’ (from 1 to 9 of these) – but we, watching, are not given even these clues (unless we buy the program which includes a matrix of scenes and who plays in each one).  In Impro Theatre there can be some continuity, as an incoming actor may add to the action of the actors already in play, or change the direction with at least some kind of progression into a new scene altogether.  But the scenes in Love and Information are all in “jump” mode, with absolutely no connection from one to the next.

In one scene, someone tries to explain our behaviour as the result of the “random” nature of evolution – but, interestingly enough, evolution is not mathematically random in fact, even if we are not able to predict from one state of a species what the next step will be to another state.  Since we can’t even predict who we will fall in love with, we might think our genetic make-up is random, but looking back we can see there’s a process involved (as Mendel found out about peas in a pod).

With such a skilled team of actors and a design which is exactly appropriate for Churchill’s conception, you can be assured you will enjoy the production, even if I can’t guarantee that you will see the exact same show that I saw.  My sense is that the tremendous fun which improvisation is for these actors has kept up its momentum from the rehearsal room to the performances.  You won’t find yourself worrying about the philosophy, or whether you should always tell the truth or not, even if you think you know it.  You’ll just be engaged in objectively observing our species struggling along, sometimes sad, often wryly amusing, much of the time just very funny.  If there’s one scene you won’t forget, it has to be the one in the natural history museum, not shown here.  But I’ll say no more.  You'll have to go to see for yourself.

Cast - Alison Whyte in spotlight

Ursula Yovich and Harry Greenwood

Zahra Newman
Photos by Pia Johnson