Love and Information (Underground Productions)
Schonell Cinema and Live Theatre
March 12 – 21
“Love and Information” begins with six character scenes frozen on stage as the audience enters, a hint of the multiplicity of stories to come (over 60 vignettes). With all the cast members then taking to the stage in the first scene, vocal delivery is sometimes muffled, overwhelmed by the accompanying technology sounds. Initially, it is forgivable, however, as the point regarding technology at the core of its thematic comment is clear well before the lengthy introduction is over.
Caryl Churchill’s “Love and Information” questions the very nature of what it means to be connected, in a manner that mirrors our modern, minimal attention spans. It is a clever approach, but while it is interesting, it is also often exhausting in its non-traditional narrative. Each scene is self-contained with no recurring characters or narrative through-line, and it is up to the audience to determine their contexts. Some are just a few lines of fragmented dialogue, frustratingly shorter than the blackouts that bookended them. Others, are longer and thus more conducive to audience engagement. And as audience members try to connect the scenes, they are, in fact, confirming Churchill’s intent to illustrate our constant craving for connection, whether by looking for logic in maths or human connections in life.
The consequential contemplation raises a number of interesting intellectual considerations. One such idea is of whether it is better to know or no. It’s an old one, dismissed by Othello as “I swear ’tis better to be much abused. Than but to know ‘t a little”. “Love and Information” explores the options in a range of modern guises…. placing characters in geographical remoteness without access to a wi-fi signal, presenting them as unable to settle disagreement without Google-aided immediacy and suggesting that memories can only come those events in life for which there is legacy footage.
At its core also is the notion of information – shared, scientifically investigated, censored and secreted and questions about the power of its knowledge – to know if he loves you, if he’s cheating, if you should stay or move away. And accordingly, anxieties of love also overlap, particularly in later scenes which move towards notions of virtual reality as an adequate replacement to real life.
With over 100 characters to present, the 24-strong cast switch between multiple roles with ease, aided by minor costume tweaks. While one scene of an elderly group reflecting back on life’s milestones while watching a wedding video is overplayed, generally performers do a good job in engaging the audience, whether giggling in girly revelation of gossip or teary when told of terminal illness diagnosis, for example.
However, some scenes are simply too brief to foster any engagement, while others, like tale of a tip-off phone call to the police leave us only wanting more. It is hard work for the audience too in some scenes when the background soundscape is a little overwhelming.
“Love and Information” is like a modern short story analogy brought to theatrical life in a kaleidoscope of scenes. Aided by its taut direction (Kate Fester and Maddi Romcke) and transitions, audience members are sure to have their preferred stories from which they will take thematic comment and contemplation about connection in this crazy world.