Last night, Grapeshot went along to DRAMAC’s current production of Patricia Cornelius’ LOVE. It’s the story of a volatile love triangle between three young Australians at the bottom of the heap, marred by drug addiction and jealousy. From the moment Tanya delivers a fierce and forceful opening monologue from a prison bed to her lover, 19-year-old Annie, you’re hooked:
“… I saw the bitches smelling you, their eyes slits, tongues circling their lips, mouths filling with spit, and I growled at them, I really did, I growled, could’ve bared me teeth, probably did, because I was that sure that none of them were going to have you, you were all mine and I growled at them, to let them know, back off or I’ll let rip.”
Tanya and Annie reunite after their respective sentences are over, but after Annie begins a relationship with a man she meets on the street, Lorenzo, things go to shit pretty quickly. Both Tanya and Lorenzo become too enamoured with Annie to leave – and they’re also fairly dependent on the cash she brings in from her job as a sex worker. A terse, at times violent, and nuanced portrayal of the characters’ off-kilter relationship opens up on stage with an intimate realism punctured by flashes of drug-addled absurdism and narcotic dreams.
We asked the director of LOVE, Freya Jokela, about why she decided to take this courageous piece of theatre to stage, and how working on the show has changed her perception of the words ‘I love you’.
What attracted you to the story of LOVE?
I first came across the play in high school when I was looking for an HSC drama monologue and LOVE really stood out to me. There was something about how unique the relationships were that I was really drawn to.
I have directed a couple of plays for DRAMAC in the past and was looking for something I know would be challenging. Not only for me as a director, but challenging for the actors and audiences as well. Something that would really make people think about the realities of a lot of young Australians. I think that’s another thing that attracted me to the script; the fact that it is so uniquely Australian but the story is timeless. This could be happening 20 years ago or just last week.
Can you introduce us to the play’s three characters?
I’ve gotten the actors to come up with a little bio for themselves which I thinks sums them all up perfectly. First up we’ve got Tanya. “Tanya has had it tough. She’s damaged, she’s rough, she’s fiery and fierce, but she still knows how to love – even if the only love she’s known is unconventional at best, and unstable at worst.”
Then the beautiful little bird that is Annie. “Annie is nineteen but her youth has long run out. She is addicted and abused. She is dependent and unstable. She is a lady of the night who needs love to survive.”
And finally, Lorenzo: “He’s gone through bad stuff and seen other people go through worse so he doesn’t let himself get vulnerable (or fall in love). He just scuttles around grabbing any opportunity he sees. He’s willing to be charming or aggressive or act like a pushover if he needs to but it’s always on his terms.”
Which character do you relate to most, and why?
I think I relate most with Annie. She’s come from a rough place and has had to grow up quickly. She is addicted to anything that will make her feel good, including love. She reminds me of myself when I was younger, one who wants to impress those she loves, struggling to find a sense of independence. She goes through so much and grows exponentially throughout the show.
Is the way that the idea of love is proliferated through popular media problematic? How does LOVE challenge or interrogate our conceptions about sexuality and relationships?
I certainly think the media’s perceptions of love are getting better than they were say 10 years ago. We’re seeing the ‘boy meets girl, they fall in love’ trope less, but we still have a long way to go. Not only in terms of equal representation of sexuality but also different kinds of people who are in love, the lengths that people go for love and how painful love can be.
I think LOVE is challenging for audiences because it presents these differences so abundantly. It’s rare that you are presented with fundamentally bad relationships in the media. All three of these characters see love so differently whether it be loving to protect, loving to manipulate or loving to feel something at all.
How have your ideas about LOVE – both the play and the concept – changed throughout the rehearsal period?
Each time you read this play, you notice something new. You realise where they are, what they are doing and you realise what someone is actually saying when they say “I love you”. Our 5 months of rehearsal have taught me so much about love, predominately how different the experience of being in love is for different people, how hard it is to be loved, and how lucky I am to have people around me that love unconditionally.
Without giving too much away, is there a particular scene, line of dialogue, or exchange between characters that stands out to you?
This play is so nuanced, especially in the scenes between Tanya and Annie. Each moment is so powerful and threads the whole play together. If I had to choose a moment that stands out to me it would be when Tanya says she would never get on a horse. Tanya says this line towards the beginning of the play and it seems to be a throw away line. But that’s the beauty of Patricia Cornelius’ writing. Nothing is said in passing and everything is related. So keep that line in mind when you come see the show.
What motivated you to donate profits to ACON?
I knew from the get go that I wanted the proceeds of this show to go to somewhere meaningful, somewhere that would help people like Tanya, Annie and Lorenzo. So I got my team together and we all started doing research to find a place that would cater to their needs. After a couple of days of searching we found ACON, a charity that targets health issues within the LGBTI+ community. They do fantastic work in HIV prevention, support for domestic violence victims and tackle drug and alcohol addiction. Their focus on the LGBTI+ community and their initiatives to better the lives of those impacted by adversity are the two main reasons we wanted them to support them.
Why should people come to see this show?
If you haven’t had a chance to check out a DRAMAC production during your time at university this is the show to see. Six months of hard work, blood, sweat and tears have been poured out to ensure realism, quality and intimacy. As you watch the show you’ll find nuances of the body that have come from in depth research and character workshops (special thanks to Jon Burtt and the MQU Arts Faculty).
You’ll be wowed by our production elements including live audio mixes and incredible set design. You’ll be seeing what life is really like for young Australians who you could have seen in the pub on a night out or that your parents could have gone to school with. And most importantly, you’ll be helping real people like Tanya, Annie and Lorenzo get through life one day at a time.
LOVE runs until Sat 13 May at the Lighthouse Theatre, student tickets $15. Find more info and buy tickets here.