Sunday, June 30, 2013

Theatre: Love and Money

By Dennis Kelly
Directed by Matthew Dunster
Set designer Patrick James Howe
Performed by WAAPA Third Year Acting students Charlotte Davenport, Nicholas Starte, Grace Smilbert, Andreas Lohmeyer, Ayeesha Ash, Joel Horwood, Bill Thompson, Emilie Cocquerel and Kirsty Mariller
Roundhouse Theatre, WAAPA
June 14 - 20, 2013

Nicholas Starte and Ayeesha Ash
I imagine Perth Theatre Company’s AD Melissa Cantwell sitting, a little sadly, in the audience at Love and Money, Dennis Kelly’s savage, sharply realized tragedy about exactly what its title suggests, knowing that her company – which specializes in work with this play’s provenance and stance – could never put a cast of the size it requires on a professional stage in this town.
It’s to our great benefit, then, that WAAPA, our precious nursery of theatre talent, can, and does.
More than that, it's had the great good fortune of having the accomplished English actor/writer/director Matthew Dunster here to direct.  He took the Young Vic production of Love and Money all the way to an Olivier Award nomination. Dunster's experience goes much of the way to explaining the assurance and balance of the play’s staging, and the confidence and courage of its cast of Third Year Acting students.
In seven scenes, in reverse chronological order, the play tells the story of a young couple overwhelmed by material greed and debt, and the tragic consequences of their fall. It opens with David (Nicholas Starte), a self-absorbed city player, in an email exchange with a Frenchwoman he’s had a fling with. The exchange goes from frivolous, to uncomfortable, to horrifying as David’s culpability in the death of his wife Jess (Charlotte Davenport) is, a little incongruously, revealed.
Kelly peels their lives, and those around them, away in a series of powerful vignettes, ending (and hence beginning) with a beautifully delivered soliloquy by Davenport as Jess contemplates life and marriage with David. The other scenes provide powerful cameos for the supporting cast, with Grace Smilbert and Andreas Lohmeyer especially good as Jess’s grieving parents and Emilie Cocquerel outstanding as a young model being ensnared by a pornographer (Bill Thompson), lifting a scene that, in most respects, is incidental to the play’s narrative and redundant to its themes.
Best of all was Ayeesha Ash, in a charismatic, measured (and, I thought, immediately camera-ready) performance as a friend of David’s trying to get him back on the rails – or, more accurately, the treadmill – of business.
All nine actors (Joel Horwood and the feisty Kirsty Mariller complete the cast) work neatly together in the play’s ensemble pieces, and the set and lighting designs, by Patrick James Howe and Dana Ioppolo, are tight, contemporary and, co-incidentally, very reminiscent of those delivered by Cantwell’s creative teams in the STC studio. The music of Handel provides a stately counterpoint to the action throughout, and Heaven's Light, by AIR, perfectly underscored Jess's doomed ecstasy at play's end. 
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I urge you to take advantage of the WAAPA public performance programme, because it offers productions far better resourced than our smaller professional theatre companies can afford, and far more adventurous than our best resourced company believes it can risk.      

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