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Review: Love/Chamberlain at Theatreworks

By Megan Mitchell

Love/Chamberlain is a 60-minute play exploring grief, motherhood, loss and public scrutiny. It is an exploratory work that follows a chance encounter between Courtney Love and Lindy Chamberlain on a remote Australian highway, as they pursue an oracle.

I was fortunate enough to go on opening night, and Theatreworks had a really lively atmosphere, both in the foyer and during the show. The back of the programme provided a useful timeline of the two women’s lives, which was very helpful for someone who is unfamiliar with these two women beyond a superficial level.

The writer Bridge Mackay has clearly researched both women extensively – and indeed you would have to, in order to find the surprising parallels in their lives that were explored during the show. Love, a hedonistic, tortured actress and Chamberlain, a religious, Australian mother who was thrust into the public eye seemingly have nothing in common. However the play finds plenty of avenues to compare and contrast their experiences. The demonization of women in the public eye and willingness to lay blame was a particularly resonant theme.

Love, played by Rebekah Hill was the life of the show, portraying a vulnerable, lost woman with a wicked sense of humour. She was very well embodied and felt like the actress had really settled into the characterisation. Chamberlain, played by Dana Miltins was a wide-eyed, devout, and equally fragile woman but in a completely opposing manner. She contrasted well with Hill’s character, and both women really blossomed once the show got moving.

They were supported by Joseph Lai, who played a variety of smaller roles, some more expansive, such as the psychic, some humorous, repeated characters (such as the tin-can opening coach) and others that were only touched on. He has a very warm, charming presence that came through in all of his characters, but equally made them hard to distinguish from one another, and occasionally made their purpose unclear.

The set was unusual and visually striking – some aspects of it were under utilised, but overall it contributed to a changing mood and narrative very effectively. The use of space was satisfying and the costuming was very cleverly communicative without trying too hard; you got a real sense of who these women were before they even opened their mouths.

The show was ambitious in the myriad of themes it was trying to follow – it wasn’t a linear narrative, except when it was and it equally wasn’t a naturalistic show, except when it was. It was very difficult to define, and I found the pacing seemed to rush ahead, not allowing us to fully process the moments and the depth of what they women were sharing.

The most memorable and profound scenes for me were the slowest and simplest. Chamberlain enjoying an ice-cream at the beach, and Love sharing dinner of cold potatoes and then injecting herself were such honest moments, I really felt like I connected to the characters.

Some of the themes that the show was exploring were profound, and hit home, but I feel like a simpler approach, with a more human aspect to the relationship between the two women may have communicated it more easily. The actors were portraying such vulnerable women, you really wanted them to see their shared experience reflected back at them, and while there were moments of beautiful connection, a lot of the time it felt like the two women were destined to move on parallel tracks towards a shared destination, but not allowed to experience it together.

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All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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