‘Subscription to Love’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by March 14, 2014

‘Subscription to Love’ is a new, locally written work by 22 years old, William Dunlop. The Playlovers Theatre Group is presenting the Premiere of this contemporary, adult tragic-comedy – that has strong coarse language – it can be seen at Hackett Hall, 10 Draper Street, Floreat.

For three nights only, the two and a half hour performances run until 15th March. Curtain up at 8.00 pm.

 

The action is mainly on the theatre’s auditorium floor, in front of the stage, and consists of a pub bar and a sitting room couch.

       It is Sunday afternoon, and a scruffy beggar (Peter Bibby) with a flowing white beard, staggers onto the street and in Shakespearean style, delivers the play’s prologue. He has lived on the streets for many years, and relates some of the happenings that he has seen.

      Meanwhile, a teacher Claire (Rachael Chamberlain) and her best friend, emergency nurse Anna (Adelle Munsie) are finishing their makeup before setting forth into Northbridge in search of men.  A friendly magazine seller (Clayton Zwanenberg) accosts the girls as they are entering a bar.

        In the bar, an Aboriginal waitress, Alice (Jess Stenglien) is discussing the political problems of the day with a regular barfly (Megan Burley), whilst the barman Michael (Cameron Leese) wipes down the tables. Two young men, pharmacist Jamie (Monty Atherden) and his pal Elliott (Jordan Holloway) start to chat up the girls.

        Heartbroken Jessica (Agata Knapska) spots Jamie, the man who recently dumped her, talking to Anna in the pub, and is heartbroken. She tries to find out why they broke up, but becomes even more upset. A thug (Jaxon George) is mercilessly picking on the beggar when Elliott comes to the rescue.

 

This very unusual play has several good story-threads, ranging from politics to Gay Rights, and homelessness to depression. It starts in the fun, romantic style of ‘As You Like It’ and finishes in high drama. The script topics were exceptionally current, with references to happenings of even the past week.

The whole dialogue is written in iambic pentameter – similar to the Shakespearean style of de-dum, de-dum poetic writing. The complex writing is very clever and has generally been drafted well. It requires a great deal of skill to perform, as the pattern should not be too obvious and certainly not spoken as though reading poetry. The cast had to learn 140-minutes of this cadence, and for many people who struggled to learn a four-line poem at school, this was an enormous task. The whole cast did an admirable job, but did not quite hit the mark.

The rhyme was filled with florid description, unusual words and many metaphors often based on the Bard’s writing. A few really deliberately clunky lines brought light comedic relief. The cast tried hard and a great deal of credit must go to them for even accepting the challenge, but with the writer also directing, the message was not delivered as well as it could have been.

The whole idea of going to the theatre is for enjoyment, and unfortunately this was a little like eating fruit cake, the first few mouthfuls were enjoyable but eventually it became a real struggle to stay alert and follow the story. A twenty percent edit would have been beneficial. A couple of the actors presented their delivery as though the script was a normal play, and this seemed to work well. Others did the full Shakespearean thespian bit and it fell flat. With the iambic pentameter, some of the cast were concentrating so hard on the rhythm that their characterisation disappeared, confirming my feeling that a separate director would probably have helped.

You could see a colossal amount of work and immense skill has gone into this, Will’s first play, and in the right hands he will develop his own style.

I am sorry if this review may look a lot worse than it is meant to be. The cast worked hard and the author is to be congratulated and encouraged. Good luck for the future.