Wednesday, 3 September 2014

This Is Not A Love Song - The Blue Room Theatre (2 September 2014)

Everybody has a soundtrack to their own lives. It doesn’t matter what kind of music or from what era(s), it is part of who we are. That is the wonderful quality of music – it can evoke a memory, an emotion, a singularly genuine response with an ease unmatched by any other medium. Of people, of places, of times good and bad; the soundtrack we fashion provides signposts to the highlights and occasionally the low points of our lives.

Filmmakers have known this for decades with perhaps the two greatest practitioners of the movie soundtrack being Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino who use it to powerful effect. Here comedian Greg Fleet (in his playwriting debut) has created his own soundtrack filled with an eclectic mix of songs sung by him, the two other actors who populate the world of his play, and musician Michael de Grussa.

Indeed music is the essence that attracts then binds Jimmy (Shane Adamczak) and Sophie (Tegan Mulvany who also directs) as they fall in then ultimately out of love. Watching this as if a ghost in his own apartment of days gone by, is Fleet’s older Jimmy who reflects on the joy of a new relationship then watches, commentates, and briefly interacts as it slowly unravels. He has revisited this youthful period countless times and the same mistakes he made leading to the same outcome gives him a world weariness and air of wistful regret. But this is Greg Fleet so there is plenty of comedy to go along with the wry observations.

He is an engaging presence and there is an honesty here that is compelling as he addresses the audience who are literally a part of the canvas of this tale. However, this is a story not only about the arc of a relationship but how we remember such things. Memories can be unreliable or altered to suit our purposes and, as we learn yet already know, people lie. Fleet does get up to some mischief, in particular with the second tale about what happened to Jimmy’s father delivered with deadpan deceit.

The teller of the first tale (which is equally cheeky) is Adamczak who is very good as the pot smoking, video game playing boyfriend whose ambition is to be ambitious. Yes, Jimmy may be going places but not very fast. That his estimation of Sophie goes up a notch when she bests his record collection is all geek charm of the highest order, a trait Adamczak nails. He also has a strong singing voice, crucial here given the number and significance of the songs.

Mulvany shines as Sophie and her chemistry with Adamczak is excellent. The arc of the relationship is nothing less than credible with subtle flourishes that make us believe these two are madly in love before complications later arise. Mulvany matches her co-star for singing chops but where she really impresses is with two tales that are utterly authentic, so much so I would not be surprised if they are someone’s actual recollections – a tragic event that happens one day while Sophie is on the bus; and a devastating conversation she has with her mother at a café. Both beautifully delivered. 

The cast is rounded out by de Grussa who plays keyboards and sings in the corner of the set and occasionally interacts with the characters. It’s a nice conceit having him so visible and he provides excellent musical support… which brings us to the songs.

Anybody who has the moxie to open the batting with a Wings number and uses the middle section of said song (thereby concealing its identity from younger audience members) gets full points in my book. There follows a selection of songs chosen for lyrical and emotional relevance from such bands as Yazoo, The Beatles, ELO, Split Enz, Men At Work, Australian Crawl, Warren Zevon, Buffalo Springfield, The Pretenders, and The Motels (told you it was eclectic!). But it is Daryl Braithwaite who features because, as everyone knows, his classic The Horses could solve world strife! There was only one song I didn’t recognise but it sounded punk in origin which was never my thing. Yes, music is nothing less than personal, each with our own guilty delights (I’ll live with the disappointment of there being no Do You Really Want To Hurt Me by Culture Club).

I really enjoyed this show – the writing and acting is very good, the songs well delivered (at times I felt like clapping at the end of a number though This is Also Not a Musical) and the humour is genuinely funny amongst the underlying tone of regret. The set was nicely done with the iconic Dark Side of the Moon cover art prominent on one wall, CDs and honest- to-god real vinyl albums (Google it young people) everywhere, with the illusion of the apartment enhanced by the back and side walls painted to show domestic items. The play ends on a strong line delivered by Fleet that was an understated punctuation point.

It is an auspicious debut.

This Is Not A Love Song is directed by Tegan Mulvany, Written by Greg Fleet and stars Fleet, Mulvany, Shane Adamczak and Michael de Grussa. There are 5 more shows at The Blue Room Theatre but only tickets available for 6pm, Saturday 6 September so you're fast running out of opportunities to see this one!     

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