Saturday 14 October 2023

FOR LOVE NOR MONEY: Theatre Review

WHAT: For Love Nor Money
WHEN: 11 - 22 October 2022
WHERE: Trades Hall (Meeting Room)
WRITTEN BY: Angus Cameron
DIRECTED BY: Justin Nott
PERFORMED BY: Clarisse Bonello, Matthew Connell, and Alexander Lloyd

Matthew Connell and Alexander Lloyd - photo by Chelsea Neate

I often get frustrated by the Fringe 45 formula and I have really enjoyed how some shows in the late timeslot this year have allowed themselves permission to expand beyond that and give their shows some of the time they need to develop and resolve. For Love Nor Money, showing in the Meeting Room at Fringe Hub, is one of those shows. Presented by Victorian Theatre Company, this new play expands to almost an hour and half which makes it a real and satisfying night of theatre.

Love Nor Money, Angus Cameron's latest play, follows the love triangle of Mel (Clarisse Bonello), Liam (Alexander Lloyd), and Ryan (Matthew Connell). The play does not follow the natural timeline of their intersections. I don't know how much of the structure was workshopped in rehearsal, but in a post-dramatic arc, the play follows the fluctuations of the relationships - the highs and lows, the connections and the disconnections.

Mel and Liam are a couple. She is an emerging film director and he is an up-and-coming poet (or he thinks he is...). They have been a couple for a long time but it is a relationship which regularly includes a third. Mel notices someone (Ryan) one night and convinces Liam that Ryan might complete a new menage a trois.

Ryan is a political aide but to a certain extent, in this iteration of the play, that is somewhat irrelevant. What is important is that he is a source of money. That comment might give you a slightly wrong impression about the play though - or perhaps the correct one. His clothes set him apart in this production. As the play progresses and the characters are revealed, as well as the circumstances of their coming together (remember I said it is not chronologically linear), I find myself wondering how much of Mel's interest was piqued not only by a pretty man, but also by a man so obviously of means? 

The actors are of the finest calibre. Connell plays the metamorph with skill, revealing little yet being an agent of great impact on the triangular relationships in all of their manifestations. His ambiguity is the catalyst from which Mel is able to take her career leap of faith, his money is what facilitates this. I very much enjoyed how Bonello balanced the play of emotions which underpinned the conflict between her ambitions and her need for human connection. 

In many ways, Liam is the only emotionally honest character and Lloyd's portrayal of vulnerability in a world too fast and too entrepreneurial was heartbreaking. It was also delightful to see those social and emotional stereotypes of man and woman inverted. We need to break them down. Women can be ambitious and men can be vulnerable. Thank you Angus!

Justin Nott as director is a good match with Cameron's writing. They share an artistic ouvre and work in similar creative spaces. There is a small schism though. Nott sits firmly in the realm of post-dramatics and this dominates in this production. I think, though, that Cameron's writing is more post-truth and I wonder if some important sub-text has been left unrevealed in this production of For Love Nor Money. That may also be a result of fitting the show into the Fringe construct. I would love to see another iteration of this play where Cameron explores the politics of Ryan and the poetry of Liam a bit further although I realise that is generally not the timbre of this playwright's past work.

Nott has made some really clever choices. The staging keeps the three characters locked in a tight triangle together - a rather literal interpretation with fluro lights defining the space and only a chair at each point. I mentioned earlier about how much I liked the costuming, but I found the scene changes too long and repetitive. Music filled the void but it was disconcerting to hear the theme for Vikings in this context. That music is too iconic and pulls us out of this story and into that one. Eventually, in the second half of the show, the scene change music did change into strong driving, less recognisable stings. This worked much better, but in my opinion the time wasted changing costumes would have been better spent exploring sub-text, and building breathing space into the rapid-fire dialogue, interrupting the rhythm to emphasize intention.

That probably sounded like I didn't enjoy For Love Nor Money but I really did. I loved the ideas in the play and I really enjoyed the characters. They are modern, and they are meaningful. They make hard choices and they live and love with passion. They are us and they are now. Be very afraid of that...

4.5 Stars

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