Prolific British playwright Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information features a multitude of characters across somewhere around 70 scenes, played by just eight actors in this highly entertaining production from the Malthouse and Sydney Theatre Company.
This is a unique play, with some of the scenes in this production coming in at no more than a few seconds and a couple of words, while others take a deeper contemplation on subjects of love, mortality and the meaning of life. Individually these scenes seem apparently unrelated, but when viewed as a whole, provide a surprisingly meaningful depiction of modern relationships, and the need for love and a connection with the world and people around us.
Churchill only provides a loose structure for the script, allowing the scenes to be played in almost any order, in almost any context and by almost any character, or number of characters, with the dialogue apparently unallocated in the script. Of course, this means that no two productions of Love and Information will be the same, creating an astounding degree of liberation for a director and his cast.
Kip Williams, as director of this production, has taken on the challenge of Churchill’s highly malleable script and along with an extremely energetic and hardworking cast has presented a tremendously inventive interpretation. Due to choices made by Williams, this production is at times melodramatically funny, such as when a woman blurts out to young man that their mother isn’t his mother, but in fact she is. Then it becomes quite meditative such as when a road worker contemplates what God means to her, before developing into deeply touching portraits of grieving and loss, such as when a young man visits an older man with dementia.
Ever evolving and progressing, both the stage and the themes drawn upon it are constantly changing. A Tetris-like set design by David Fleischer allows the cast to move blocks around the stage, in wonderfully choreographed sequences, to create everything from swimming pools to graveyards and the surface of the moon. These pure white boxes on a stark white expanse provide a blank canvas for stunning lighting designs by Paul Jackson. Further, beautifully devised musical compositions by THE SWEATS make the scene changes as intriguing as the scripted moments, and their underscoring of the more dramatic sections of the play create high-tension atmospherics.
Considering the scale of the space, the amount of setting put on stage for quite short and simple sequences is incredible. One particular highlight being a museum filled with taxonomical examples, including a Neanderthal couple, providing the backdrop for both deep and inane scenes before being whisked off-stage once more. The ensemble of four men and four women run from scene to scene in astoundingly well-rehearsed changes, making look easy what must be a logistical nightmare backstage.
What one chooses to take from this jumble of unconnected scenes is open to personal interpretation, but it is clear that Churchill is playing with the idea of what human connections look like in the modern world, reflecting the barrage of informational content we have thrown at us every day. The resulting image through Kip Williams’ lens is vivid, moving and unexpectedly thought provoking. This production is an experiment in performance, best suited to lovers of the art of theatre, but is nevertheless easily enjoyable for anyone interested in a unique theatrical experience.