Melbourne Fringe 2012

Play Actually

0 Comments 28 September 2012

Play Actually is a peculiar but vastly entertaining narrative which parodies the many forms of modern romance, ranging from online dating to virtual reality games. The performance is comprised of several bizarre romantic situations whose characters are interconnected, bearing a resemblance to the structure of popular romantic comedy Love Actually - however, this is where the similarities between the film and the play begin and end. The performers aim to break the clichéd romantic mould, declaring the genre to be a “non-rom-com”, a caricature of the idealised romantic fantasies with which Hollywood presents us.

Quite ironically, actors Katy Houska and Tim Monley met and fell in love while studying at the acclaimed clown college École Philippe Gaulier in France, drawn together by their mutual enjoyment of everything anti-romance. Thus, they set about creating a play which they could travel the world with.

Houska and Monley are both highly skilled and expressive performers. Houska deftly shifts from neurotic youth “Susie”, cyber avatar “Trinity” and transgender cyber-avatar “Trinity 2” with ease. Monley simultaneously engages the audience’s sympathy as a depressed children’s entertainer and repulses them as a sleazy “peacocking” player in a bar. Their collective fervent energy and enthusiasm is to be admired as the characters search for love in the cyber-sphere and consult humorous dating manuals with rules such as “don’t show your ‘crazy’ on a first date” to help them awkwardly navigate the wily world of love.

The informal tone of the performance is set from the opening scene, when Houska rambles about the play and its “hopening” night whilst Monley does a costume change and prepares the set, and the laid-back feeling continues as they congratulate each other on completing each scene and speak about plot changes while on stage preparing for the next scene. While this banter was well-executed and amusing to begin with, as it increases during the performance it becomes wearing and detracts from what was otherwise a witty script and inventive concept. However, considering I did attend the “hopening” night, a longer run may tighten up the performance.

Overall, Play Actually is a clever satirical examination of modern dating practices and expectations of love. There are definitely some decent laughs within this unconventional performance, especially for those who might recognise a small something of themselves or someone they know in these self-conscious, lampooned characters.

Play Actually runs until 13 October at The Old Council Chambers at Trades Hall. Tickets are $23 full-price and $18 concession (Tuesday sessions $18).

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