This thing called love

I Want To Know What Love Is (QTC and The Good Room)

The Greenhouse, Bille Brown Studio

September 4 – 13


 I wanna know what love is

I want you to show me

I wanna feel what love is

I know you can show me

When it comes to 80s ballads, they don’t get much bigger than Foreigner’s “I Want To Know What Love Is” and when it comes to its namesake show, there is still no real answer. Like a mix tape being forwarded through, the pre-show soundtrack highlights love’s many musical incantations, from the Bee Gees to Jimmy Buffett. And given that there have been hundreds of songs penned about the ups and downs of being in love, they were certainly spoiled for choice. The same is clearly the case with the show’s subject matter, which emerged from over 800 (predominantly anonymous) general public submissions to the website The result is an eclectic and entertaining example of verbatim theatre about this unanswerable, universal question.

“I Want To Know What Love Is”  begins buoyantly with a perfect musical burst and a mad pashing love in (literally taking the action in to and over the stalls) as reflections of delicate and drunken first kisses and awkward moments are shared in a flurry of falling rose petals. The lushness of the aesthetic not only invigorates the largely minimalist set, but becomes a feature in itself as, through the show, the piles of pink and red are manipulated, moved and shaped to create new spaces.


Before long, the mood shifts from celebratory to solemn as reflections become of love taken rather than lost. And it is a mood change whose deliberateness is not lost on the audience, judging by the many surrounding sobs. Things become sexy too, with some dirty talk from veteran performer Carol Burns and, in his QTC debut, 18 year old Tom Cossattini. And also a little scary, as a scorned Amy Ingram does what she does best, bringing laughs with her terse angst of heartache and pain in contrast to the trite platitudes of survival, healing and ‘choosing me’.

Whether you are a cheater or a carer, if you have ever fallen in or out of love you are sure to identify with some of the show’s contributory submissions about that crazy little thing. However, it is also relief to see sprinklings of non-romantic love within the stories, with mentions of dads, dogs and drumkits as part of its celebration of love’s bittersweet contribution to the fabric of life’s narrative.


If theatre is built on stories, you don’t get much better than the authoral ownership of QTC’s “I Want To Know What Love Is”. Like love, the best way to approach the show is not to focus on its parts, but to appreciate it as a whole glorious journey through the circus of emotions it explores, a journey that is made all the more joyous by its visual aesthetic, musical score and enthusiastic performances.