“loveplay” by moira buffini 15 & 16 june, national theatre
Loveplay

2nd year NTDS Students Anthony O’Connell, Eva McEntee, Anton Koum, Delta Brooks, William Murray, Berk Ozturk, Jordan Chodzeisner National Theatre’s 2nd year students are a motivated team who understand the need to take self-responsibility. They’re being proactive in developing theatre making skills and raising funds for their 3rd year’s production. HOA Trent Baker recommended a great vehicle for them.

Comprising 6 scenes or vignettes over the centuries, the abridged ‘Loveplay’ explores perennial themes of love and sex. Buffini’s writing combines humour, pathos and history as audience members become voyeurs in a Roman temple, moonlit ruins, an elegant townhouse, Victorian art studio, 1969’s squat, and finally, a present day dating agency.

Each scene was signposted by a student doing a lap like a bathing beauty parading a banner before the ugliness of the boxing ring battle. Indeed, the combative writing was nasty; understandably so when power & control, and money and flesh surround the currency of love and sex. As ‘Dorcus’ warns ‘Marcus’ in Scene One, “You enter me without permission and you’ll think you’ve dropped your dick in acid.”

The first scene introduces us to Anthony O’Connell and Eva McEntee. O’Connell’s heartthrob strolls and laid back style demonstrate how less is more. His capacity to quickly switch from being laconic to manifesting rage isn’t easy; juxtaposing restraint with explosion indicates skill. I suspect he’s telegenic and is also likely to suit film and television work.

McEntee’s compelling stage presence, haunting sensuality, and formidable sassiness as an actor paralleled sensitive hard work and clever orchestration as the director of Scene 4. She inhabited the entire stage with insouciant charm and sneer.

Berk Ozturk brings a thoughtful intensity to his work. I suspect he has the potential to portray any age in any setting; a broad ranging character actor. Ozturk’s mesmerizing performances showcased his intelligent, quirky style, and complex stillness with humour.

Delta Brooks did a great job of unfurling her inner insect for the nervy, tentative roles her characterizations required. The students embraced, kissed, and held each other with verisimilitude – if the touching isn’t believable it’s difficult to surrender to the dialogue.

Theatre-going audiences in Melbourne have a lot of independent theatre to select from and little disposable income to spend; being spoiled for choice, busy lifestyles, the weather, chance-luck factors, venue location, publicity penetration, the subject matter, and other elements that have nothing to do with the quality and talent of the cast invariably affect ticket sales. Once there, an audience wants to be transported to a felt experience that transcends this world. The cast and crew of ‘Loveplay’ took me there.

The students worked as a team to cover any memory lapses or slight mistakes, ensuring that everyone felt safe. This is impressive theatre craft; with live theatre surely it can’t be about perfection.

Respected actors show up, continuously grow, and show generosity of spirit by having each other’s back – working as one in order to bring out the best in each other.

Everyone, including the audience, can settle in for an enjoyable, educative, and entertaining evening. The actors also made a point of conveying their appreciation to the audience for coming – a nice touch.