Written in 2012 by the renowned playwright Caryl Churchill, Love and Information is an unconventional play. With no specific narrative, it is made up of around fifty separate scenes grouped into seven thematically connected sections. Churchill leaves most of the compositional choices to the director and production team allowing them to choose which scenes to use. She offers a toolbox of theatrical material rather than a fully formed play and this means no two productions are ever quite alike.
ICAC boldly chose to begin their production before the audience had even entered the performance space, with a small dialogue unfolding in the foyer. The play proceeded through their selections of scenes in a linear fashion presenting each short vignette before snapping to the next. As the play progressed the scenes began to steadily bleed into each, becoming more and more abstract until the play climaxed in a frenzied chaos of intersecting stories and voices.
Overall, the production was executed with fluidity and a great understanding of the text. Alice Wheaton’s direction shined in places and demonstrated ingenious dramatic problem solving. This was especially the case for the scene between two former lovers whose distance was symbolised by a simple, but effective separation of tables. I was also grateful that there was only one noticeable blackout transition, and in fact many of the play’s scene changes were handled very cleverly. Wheaton opted for a decidedly darker approach to the subject matter focusing on the corruptibility and fickleness of information. The latter half of the play seemed to engage with the impact of information, especially the technologically driven kind, on love and relationships. However, not all of the scenes were curated well, and some felt out of place or simply there to pad out the play’s length. Perhaps the biggest directorial flourish was the decision to blur and abstract the scenes in the final act. This was a novel approach to the text’s form and was fairly successful in illustrating the chaotic, overwhelming nature of the play’s themes. As interesting as this take was it overcomplicated the directness and immediacy of Churchills vignettes and I found myself losing emotional engagement with the stories on stage.
Set design by Gina McIntosh, Christian Wong, Dani Mwipatayi and Pinn Karnhanachari was sparse, yet detailed and supported the performances effectively. Similarly, AV design by Alice Bouchard was very successful especially for a play dealing with the effects of technology on contemporary life. Televisions, laptop screens and projections gave many of the scenes an added dramatic depth and were executed with no noticeable technical difficulties whatsoever, a rare accomplishment in any student production. Lighting and sound were also solid with Jonathon Evan’s lighting neatly framing each scene and Hamish Francis offering an ominous, brooding score that swelled through the piece. Maddie Mills’ costume design was mostly sound although could have gone a little further to help establish the characters and circumstances of each scene.
My main criticism with the production stems from the plays frenetic, ever constantly changing nature and the immense challenge this poses to an acting ensemble. The play’s capacity to engage the audience relies substantially on the actors’ ability to quickly establish a scene and to commit to their individual drama with passion and energy. I felt that, as adamantly as the ensemble tried to drive the urgency of each scene, their performance began a little too tentatively to really grip me. Similarly, possibly due to opening night nerves, cues seemed to lag and gaps emerged which drained the shows energy. However, the biggest factor here was some of the cast’s inaudibility and a lack of volume. As a result, many scenes fell flat and most of the shorter scenes were simply swallowed up. Nevertheless, the ensemble handled the complex scene changes excellently, eventually finding their feet and driving the show home with passion and courage.
Despite some patchiness, ICAC’s production was a well thought out and refreshing choice in the sometimes homogenous sea of collegiate musicals, and it was satisfying to see student theatre tackle some challenging contemporary writing.
Martin Fatmaja Hoggart
ICAC’s production of Love and Information runs from the 10th-13th of May at the Guild Theatre. Visit https://www.facebook.com/events/235572416912525/ for more details.