The performance space at fortyfivedownstairs is a flexible one to be sure and becomes many things for a show. Sometimes it’s passive like a gallery, other times as experimental as a petri dish. And sometimes, it’s a furnace.
Indeed, this extraordinary double-bill of Patricia Cornelius’ plays Shit and Love are as oppressive and incendiary as any blast oven.
In Shit, we meet Billy (Nicci Wilks), Bobby (Sarah Ward), and Sam (Peta Brady), and follow their fortunes as they pull on the threads of each other’s lives. There are literal and thematic similarities, some fun, others terrible. These friends feel like they’ve been circling the drain of society since birth and as the play progresses their stories too circle and spiral down to a horrific and undeniable truth.
The performances from Nicci, Sarah, and Peta were wonderful. Over, around, and along the top of a non-de-script wall courtesy of designer, Marg Horwell, all three actors do beautiful work navigating Cornelius’ dialogue as it shifts from staccato parroting to longer moments of reflections and back again, through confrontation to compassion.
In Love, we meet Tanya (Tahlee Fereday), Lorenzo (Benjamin Nichol), and Annie (Carly Sheppard), struggling to arrest their own downward spirals. Annie and Tanya fell in love in prison, but while Annie waits for Tanya on the outside she also falls for Lorenzo. Tanya gets out and this unexpected polyamorous arrangement turns increasingly toxic as Annie’s sex work moves from building a new life to supporting their ever-worsening drug addiction.
There’s wonderful physicality and compelling emotionality in Tahlee, Benjamin, and Carly’s performances. On a small raised platform surrounded by shiny, festive confetti as out of reach as their respective characters’ hopes, their committed bodies and voices do some terrific storytelling.
The question of nature vs. nurture is definitively answered with both pieces: Nurture is the external, elements like environment and the wider culture: In Shit, we have an uncaring patriarchal society that has been abusing Billy, Bobby, and Sam from the beginning; In Love, the kindness Annie is supposed to receive from Tanya and Benjamin, those purporting to care most about her, becomes selfish and manipulative.
Thankfully, Patricia and Director, Susie Dee, have included levity among the bleakness, making for a great night of strong, moving theatre.
SHIT / LOVE
fortyfivedownstairs, 45 Flinders Lane, Melbourne
Season continues to 9 June 2019 (SHIT: Tuesday – Saturday: 7.30pm / Sunday: 4.00pm | LOVE: Tuesday – Saturday: 9.00pm / Sunday: 5.30pm)
Information and Bookings: www.fortyfivedownstairs.com
Image: Love – photo by Pier Carthew
Review: David Collins