Lovesong (Red Stitch) – theatre review

Poignant. Deeply moving. Brilliantly conceived and executed. A life story rich and redolent. That’s what awaits you when you enter Red Stitch Theatre to experience multi award-winning British playwright Abi Morgan’s Lovesong.

Billy and Maggie are a young English couple who have migrated to Australia. He practices as a dentist and she’s a librarian. They are also an elderly pair nearing the end of the lives. She, in particular, is ill. The experiences of these four characters, representations of the same two, are intertwined throughout the 80 minutes.

Photo credit: Teresa Noble

We witness their trials, tribulations and triumphs; the tenderness and the heartache of their everyday lives. We see the risks they take and their struggle to conceive as they make a home together in a place where they will stay for more than 30 years, complete with its peach tree.

Lovesong is introduced by a short monologue from Billy as an older man. He discusses his diligent dental hygiene and the value of teeth to archeologists and paleontologists in revealing what we eat and how we live. Always an avid reader, Billy reflects on his life; and in his sleep he’s young again.

The performances of the actors are mighty, led by the intensity of Paul English and gentility of Jillian Murray as the older couple, and captured so finely by Dylan Watson and a spirited Maddy Jevic.

The mood shifts to reflect significant events in the characters’ lives – from happy and playful to angry, frustrated and concerned. It’s impossible not to reflect on your own life.

Photo credit: Teresa Noble

I have a huge wrap for Red Stich’s works and this Australian premiere is undoubtedly among the very best this season. It brought me to tears. The simple staging by set and costume designer Adrienne Chisholm is most effective. Props are introduced as appropriate and Clare Springett’s lighting design is a feature. A cellist, Campbell Banks, punctuates scenes with a score composed by Gemma Turvey. Among his finest moments are when he creates the sound of a sprinkler and the starlings that frequent the neighbourhood. Direction by Denny Lawrence is exemplary.

As you can tell, Lovesong certainly struck a chord with me. It’s a superb production that will be etched in my mind for a long time. It’s playing at Red Stitch Theatre in St Kilda until 23 September 2018.

Alex First

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