A parable of evil and how to oppose it

11 October 2021

A call to arms that’s also fine entertainment, Love Letters to the Revolution impresses David Zampatti.

Love Letters to the Revolution, Sian Murphy ·
The Blue Room Theatre, 7 October 2021 ·

Sian Murphy’s dive into everyday evils, and how to oppose them, begins with an extended, graphic description by performer Stephanie Somerville of the grotesque way a crocodile kills you.

It’s fascinating in its own right, and an apt metaphor for the stories the Perth-based writer and director tells in her taut, eloquent new play Love Letters to the Revolution.

Somerville returns at the end to tell you how to escape this gruesome fate. It’s good advice (though I hope you never have to take it).

Much of the intervening action consists of snatches of conversation overheard at a party, morsels of truth, little surrenders and little rebellions (that’s not to dismiss them – small moments can have great importance and devastating consequences).

These cascading vignettes can create a highly successful dramatic effect, but it requires great skill to drive, and strong, versatile performers to deliver. Happily, Murphy’s stagecraft is point-precise (I note she had Andrea Gibbs and Clare Watson as her writing and directing mentors – that’s one hell of a team) and cast members Somerville, Marlanie Haerewa, Elisa Williams and Jono Battista slip in and out of scenes and characters with skill and impact.

Murphy’s stagecraft is point-precise. Pictured: Elisa Williams and Jono Battista. Photo: Daniel Grant

Love Letters ranges across the landscapes of oppression, neglect and prejudice, where money does the talking while the planet burns. Where the different and disadvantaged become outcasts and pigeonholes are waiting like traps.

There’s passion and outrage in the performance, but fine humanity and much humour as well. Love Letters is as enjoyable an entertainment as it is a call to arms.

The constant, threatening presence throughout is a fifth performer, James McMillan. The indie theatre polymath lurks unseen in corners or circles his quarry, soft faced and looming, impassively curious. He could be a bouncer, a voyeur or a spy.

Never smile at him. You know what he is.

The temperature of the short scenes rises, the threat increases. Implication, intimidation, rejection, insult. The party talk, the office talk, all the ways to push, shove and abuse, until there’s a drunk girl, unconscious on a sofa in a minister’s office…

…and there’s this crocodile.

(Some years back a ranger in a national park in Northern California told my daughter and me what to do if confronted by an aggressive mountain lion: first, bunch together and wave your hands about to make yourself as big as you can; if it keeps coming, shout and throw anything you can at it; if, finally, it comes at you, fight like hell.

It might be self-defence, but it’s a kind of revolution too.)

Love Letters to the Revolution says the same thing. Quit your job. Say you DON’T want to. Feel your way across the reptile’s skin in the muddy water it’s dragged you under until you find its eyes.

And gouge them out.

Love Letters to the Revolution continues at The Blue Room Theatre until 23 October 2021.

Pictured top is Marlanie Haerewa, with Elisa Williams in the background, in ‘Love Letters to the Revolution’. Photo: Daniel Grant

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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