This review comes from Night Writes guest reviewer Josephine Lee
Glen Hamilton’s production of Love Song by John Kolvenbach shows us that love is not just romantic or lustful. It is the rocket fuel that reinvigorates our minds and souls into the richness of life. The show welcomes us into a world of the mundaneness and mystery where Ben, Joan, and Harry are individuals working through life yet have lost their ability to feel compassion and emotions for themselves and connect with one another.
Ben, whom David Hodgkins portrays as an isolated neurodivergent man, stumbles through life lost in the mundanity of modern society with his corporate-driven sister Joan (Mel Jensen), who has also lost the ability to love and feel compassion with others. Until Ben meets Molly (Romney Hamilton) and, of course, falls in love, and his soul is reborn as a bright-eyed child discovering the world for the first time in a long time. Joan and her husband Harry (Nick Roberts) are brought along on this psychological ride.
In a small corner-like black theatre space at the Darlo Drama, Hamilton tried to make the best of it for this surrealistic production. With a wooden table and chair, a worn posh wingback chair, and a lamp, we are shifted from Ben’s apartment, to his sister’s apartment, to a café, and to Ben’s mind through Joel Montgomery’s naturalistic and surrealistic lighting design and through Molly walking in and draping the furniture with a white sheet to represent Ben’s apartment. Unfortunately, the transitions between scenes were awkward, like an awkward fart at the family dinner table that no one wants to acknowledge. Each scene blacked out to not-quite pitch darkness so you could see the actors solemnly change the set in the awkward silence. Not even Molly’s singing could save it.
The acting was alright as it lacked real, gripping emotion and tension for most of the play, similar to an American Netflix Christmas movie. Now, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t enjoyable, as an American Netflix Christmas movie can still be enjoyable, depending on what you want to consume in that moment. Hodgkins presented us with an innocent seemingly neurodivergent man, full of innocence with sparks of young love, balanced with kindness and compassion. Jensen played the snappy, driven Joan opposite Roberts’s bloke-like husband. But a notable performance was Romney Hamilton’s wild and crazy and slightly psychotic Molly, which brought a shift in the play that perked the audience’s interest. But it must be noted that Jensen and Roberts did well in making a very pivotal scene very real, such that it made me sit up and think about the ideas being discussed.
Despite its flaws, Love Song is a cosy little play that shows us the rejuvenation of love in life through one’s imagination and I would recommend it to anyone who’s looking for something light to digest but who wants some intellectual stimulation on the side.
Love Song by John Kolvenbach is running at Darlo Drama from September 23rd – 25th as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival
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