Review: I Want to Know What Love Is – Darlinghurst Theatre Company

May 20, 2021

Darlinghurst Theatre CompanyI Want to Know What Love Is, 19 May 2021.

Review by Paul Neeson (Arts Wednesday)

OMG. What did I just see?

Submission # 329: “………they say you can’t hallucinate on ecstacy.”

Well now I’m even more confused, because the 60 minute sexy, sad, funny, angry, rollercoaster ride I’ve just been on was exactly like that.

On the surface, the premise of I Want to Know What Love Is seems like a vapid statistician just got an unexpected burst of creativity. (Ecstasy?) Over 800 anonymous submissions about love were gathered via the internet and turned into a play. Hmmmmmmm.

But what we experienced was a virtuosic performance that was riveting from the quiet, dark, insecure opening sequence, right through to the raunchy, crazy, messy, funny, sexy finale.

This production premiered at the Brisbane Festival in 2014 and has been wowing audiences around the country ever since. The 4 performers (Tom Cossettini, Amy Ingram, Katrina Foster and Emily Tomlins) have the timing perfected down to the nano second. But it is the sound (Lawrence English) and lighting (Jason Glenwright) designs that give the play its structure and rhythm. 

English’s music and sound design incorporates popular music (including the title song) with hard dance beats, electronic effects and poignant silences. Glenwright’s lighting takes us from a strobing dance floor to blackness via some moody, poignant lighting effects. The combination of the two divides the play into thematic segments – lust, dating, rejection, anger, revenge, renewal – that gives the 800 disparate submissions a convincing narrative.

Kieran Swann’s design, while simple in its conception, is versatile enough to transport us to differing emotional worlds. The pink and white ‘feathers’ that feature for most of the duration of the play, signify celebration, tears and even death at various moments. 

And director, Daniel Evans, pulls it all together into a production that is not for the faint-hearted. Nor is it for children under 16 given its adult content and sexual references. But the theatrical rewards keep giving throughout. The statistician rears his boring head once more toward the end, to try to give the play some kind of denouement. For me this was probably the only weak part of the production. Yes it served its purpose, but so does a spreadsheet.

This season at the Eternity Playhouse is only short (ends Sat 22 May), and given the almost full house on opening night, you’ll need to book now. Let’s hope there is a return season soon.

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