Underground Productions, the student theatre company at the University of Queensland, is the latest in Australia tackle Caryl Churchill’s 2012 play Love and Information after last year’s critically acclaimed Sydney Theatre Company/Malthouse co-production.
This play consists of 57 short scenes, each of which are designed to comment on how we interact with each other, or with the world around us, in this age of information saturation. It’s an interesting concept but unfortunately in this production, a lot of that interest is lost in the execution.
Many of the scenes featured a vulnerable moment between two people –someone being fired, a discussion of fertility, pillow talk, a first kiss – but it was hard to truly care about characters we had met only a few moments before. It felt intrusive to be witnessing such intimacies of strangers, but they didn’t really feel like personal moments.
The script seemed to trade in clichés. This wasn’t helped by the performances in Underground’s production. There’s a saying which posits that anger is the easy, go-to emotion for actors when they don’t know what else to do with a script, and the majority of this show seemed to be concerned with people who were irritated with each other. Most unpleasant.
Further, the cast did not seem to be connected to the script or each other – like everyone was just waiting for their next line, an unfortunate state in a play such as this, with dialogue that requires interplay between actors with cut-off words and internal rhythm. This frustrating lack of connection caused a handful or so of people left during the production. This said, I don’t wish to discourage anyone involved in this production- student theatre is the perfect place to learn and to take risks.
The set was stark, but functional. It reminded me of an obstacle course in a school PE class – lots of boxes and other things to jump over. The lighting was effective in moving the audience’s focus from one small scene to another. However, there were occasionally slow transitions between scenes that resulted dead-time on stage.
Overall, Love and Information left me cold and a little depressed about the state of the world – all the characters and scenes were so detached from one another that it painted a bleak picture of our society. As the 57 scenes unfolded, I felt as if I was reading a twitter or facebook newsfeed full of unfulfilling glimpses into the lives of strangers. Perhaps then Love and Information does offer an insightful critique of our lack of ability to connect to the world and to one another. In this information age we have realms of data at our fingertips- but do we understand the world any better?