The exuberance and camaraderie between the collective members is palpable in their excellent timing and generous performances.

Loveplay is the excellent debut production by Melbourne's newest theatre collective, TBC Theatre.

Written in 2001, UK writer Moira Buffini explores the changing expressions of romance over two thousand years in her 90 minute whirlwind play Loveplay. Reminiscent of Woolf’s Orlando, Buffini’s writing represents a moving attempt to reinsert women back into English history. Melodrama and farce are accompanied by more earnest reflections on gender, sexual inequality and social conventions that underpin how the dynamics of human love has unfolded through the eras. As Woolf was similarly keen to point out, the dance of power between men and women has historically waxed and waned and there is not a clear sense of ‘progress’ that emerges from an overview of history’s sexual relations.


Loveplay's opening scene is set in 79AD with a Roman soldier propositioning a local woman for sex; the final scene is set in a dating agency in London in 1992. Sex opens the play, a rape follows and a woman screams. Money and sex repeat as a theme in the play: a sex worker and a school boy's conversation in mid-war London; a nineteenth-century educated woman purchasing her gardener’s time for ‘a visual examination’ in the name of scientific progress; and a woman playing out a male urologist’s sexual fantasy by promising she will buy him dinner and ‘it will be expensive!’The opening scream echoes throughout the play, interrupting scenes at whim. Such a device may seem like a piece of Bronte melodrama, but for me the ostracism of women from historical accounts is well symbolised by the muffled, unheard cry. The young actors and actresses of the company do not shirk from sexuality, nudity and violence and allow the audience to watch and appraise without shame.

It is not easy to play London blokes from 300AD without invoking Monty Python, but thanks to Chris Saxton, Myles Tankle and Luke Cadden’s commitment, hard-hitting theatrical moments are achieved around the issue of rape and sexual violence. Fleur Murphy plays a very funny flower power woman, squirming out of her first ‘love-in’ party without diminishing her character' pathos. Michelle Myers and Jacob Pruden make a memorably hilarious performance as a heartbroken lesbian and sociopathic alpha male forced to make small-talk on a sofa.

‘The humour is in the writing,’ director Stuart Duffield says with some modesty, because in fact the actors’ performances made the audience laugh loudly and frequently. The exuberance and camaraderie between the collective members is palpable in their excellent timing, gusto and generous performances. Kathryn Tohill is a brilliantly multi-dimensional Renaissance maiden; her voice rings out with convincing exasperation. ‘What is the word for male whore because he is one?!’ she cries as she points to the handsome swain who is wrestling with commitment issues.

It is a funny, punchy ninety-minute show. It is also housed in an unbelievably great venue: a large pantheonic domed room that is the brilliant discovery of one of the company's members, Trudy Boatwright, who spotted the venue one day as she was on the tram. Loveplay is looking at history and place, Buffini is based in London as a writer for the National Theatre. The room in the Mission of Seafarers is aptly reminiscent of some of the places to be found in old London city; evocative of ancient roman buildings and windowless to the outside world. Such a choice of place (and in the play there is mention of a ‘haunting’) enables the audience’s imagination to be effortlessly transported through 2000 years of London’s history.

TBC Theatre is comprised of fourteen creative members; a multi-faceted ensemble of young actor/designer/writer hybrids. Their inaugural production will have won substantial trust from their new audiences and makes TBC an exciting and promising new presence in the Melbourne theatre landscape. This optimistic and energised company are devising a piece on female convicts for their next production, for which there is a reading in the Melbourne Old Jail at the end of the month and a three-week season planned for October.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Produced by TBC Theatre
Cast: Trudi Boatwright, Luke Cadden, Michelle Myers, Fleur Murphy, Jacob Pruden, Chris Saxton, Myles Tankle & Kathryn Tohill
Director: Stuart Duffield

Mission To Seafarers, 717 Flinders St, Docklands
2 - 20 July

Amelia Swan

Monday 7 July, 2014

About the author

Melbourne-based art writer and historian.