Aridhi Anderson is a theatremaker, performer and reviewer based in Melbourne. Check out her work at aridhianderson.com.
A subtle, powerful drama about love and growing old together
Billy and Maggie are a sweet elderly couple who have shared a fulfilling life together. But age is often accompanied by complications, and this couple finds themselves facing a bigger challenge than any they've encountered so far. Through a series of flashbacks to their younger years, Billy and Maggie re-live everything they've been through together: the joy of shared adventures, the bitterness of being childless, temptations to smother each other or stray from each other, and a rock-solid bond forged through trusting each other in their leaps of faith. They draw strength from their shared memories to make the difficult decisions that need to be made at this time.
Jillian Murray and Paul English in Lovesong at Red Stitch Actors Theatre. Image credit: Teresa Noble.
The Australian premiere of Lovesong by award-winning playwright Abi Morgan is simple, stunning, and honest theatre. Directed by Denny Lawrence and performed by Paul English, Jillian Murray, Dylan Watson, and Maddy Jevic at Red Stitch Actors Theatre, this show is a mellow experience of 80 minutes that leaves an impact for hours afterwards. Every detail contributes richly to the experience: from the size and layout of the intimate space to the tastefully designed set, to the original background score performed live on a single cello. Everything about this show is subtly skilful and meaningful; not a bit of it feels gratuitous or over the top.
Jillian Murray, Dylan Watson, Maddy Jevic and Paul English in Lovesong at Red Stitch Actors Theatre. Image credit: Teresa Noble.
This play portrays the complexity of long-term relationships with remarkable sensitivity. It traces Maggie and Billy's journey from the early days of their marriage to the present day, weaving a realistic and relatable timeline of ups and downs, telling of trials and triumphs, frustrations and resilience. It is a non-linear journey: the younger and older versions of Billy and Maggie seem to float seamlessly in and out of the space, one or both of one version often overlapping with one or both of the other version, presenting conversations and echoes between past and present. Symbols and motifs (such as starlings, a decorative skull, a hammock, Chinese lanterns, daily personal routines, and more) capture the essence of their shared experiences and help tie the storyline together. The experiences of young Billy and Maggie take on new meaning for old Billy and Maggie as they re-live their memories in their present context.
Maddy Jevic, Dylan Watson, Jillian Murray and Paul English in Lovesong at Red Stitch Actors Theatre. Image credit: Teresa Noble.
The play has a slow, gentle pace, appropriate for its subject matter. It draws the audience in enough to feel invested in the couple's journey, but it also allows room to sit and observe the events from a distance, as outsiders to this relationship. The actors' performances are intelligent, sensitive, and powered by quiet conviction. The consistently mellow tone of the show sets it apart among live entertainment, and it relies heavily on content to reach its audience.
Paul English, Jillian Murray, Maddy Jevic and Dylan Watson in Lovesong at Red Stitch Actors Theatre. Image credit: Teresa Noble.