Love Me Tender

20 Feb

Love-Me-TenderIn preview tonight at Theatreworks, Love Me Tender explores a grab-bag of vaguely-related themes through a series of stories told sometimes in dramatic dialogue, and other times in literary monologue. The characters are mostly plagued by a lack of control of their circumstances and a sense of helplessness, and much of the exploration is a cavalcade of questions and of doubt, which doesn’t exactly make for riveting theatre.

At a rather fundamental level, I have an objection to the mode of storytelling employed by Tim Holloway in much of Love Me Tender. This is theatre, but the events in the narratives are not actually performed on stage. Instead, performers tell their story, often in metaphor, mostly in direct address to the audience. The result is that what the audience encounters is not strictly speaking dramatic, but tends more towards the literary arts. We lose, as an audience, the capacity to read between the lines, the capacity to read the characters’ relationships, and the capacity to engage with the characters’ experiences as they experience them. Instead, we’re left with…


The rest of this post is published on Australian Stage.


Posted by on Wednesday, 20 February 2013 in Melbourne Theatre, Theatre, Theatreworks


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6 responses to “Love Me Tender

  1. thatguy

    Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 6:46 am

    Okay, Holloway is an established writer with extensive theatre credits (five of his plays, including Love Me Tender, are published by Currency – To say he should be a novelist instead is, at this point in his career, just plain ignorant. Do your research, Trevar.

    This also isn’t the first production of “Love Me Tender” – I am slightly exposed here as I haven’t seen the current Theatreworks production, but certainly when I saw its premiere at Belvoir a few years ago it worked very solidly as theatre. No, not necessarily theatre that you would have liked, but to deny it the possibilty of being theatre, as you’ve done, is insulting and limited.

    Look, I will not be going to Joe Woodward’s latest exercise of masturbtation on stage at the Courtyard studio, as is my right as a punter (I’ve seen enough of his work for this lifetime with his Short and Sweet play last year, and the word on it from elsewhere is that he’s not going to get any more interesting). But I don’t deny him his right to call it theatre. That’s … limited thinking.

    • chilver

      Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 8:28 am

      Limited thinking perhaps, but I think there are a few things that are sacrosanct. In theatre, the events of the narrative happen on stage. In film, the events of the narrative happen on screen. In the visual arts, if there is a narrative, it is depicted on the canvas, block, or whatever the medium happens to be. In the literary arts, we are merely told about the events in words. In this ‘play’, we are merely told about the events, apart, perhaps from one or two episodes, so I maintain that the piece sits outside the limits of theatre, but it does align more fully with the literary arts.

      I also object to the notion that the calibre of a playwright’s other work bears consideration in the interpretation of any one work. I was reviewing only Love Me Tender, thus there is no reason to research anything else Holloway had done. Holloway is indeed, as you say, an accomplished playwright, but I wouldn’t list ‘Love Me Tender’ among his dramatic accomplishments.

      I will entertain the possibility that I was too generous to the performers. Perhaps the script had greater potential as theatre than I saw realised at Theatreworks. But I am yet to be convinced. As a director I would have rejected it because I wouldn’t have been able to cast a vision for its realisation. And at any rate, I’m probably expressing more disappointment than anything. I was expecting drama and what I got was more of an abstract performance art kind of thing. Performance art has its place, perhaps, but the dross outweighs the wheat. This may well have been at the better end of that spectrum, but it’s at the dodgy end of the theatre spectrum, because the events of the narrative happen somewhere else, and in theatre, the events of the narrative should always happen here.

      • thatguy

        Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 11:25 am

        If it’s the case that ” In theatre, the events of the narrative happen on stage.”… pretty much that rules out all Classic Greek Tragedy. In which events offstage are frequently reported more than take place onstage. I think both of us are informed enough to realise Greek tragedy actually exists as a valid form of theatre (and, in fact, was the inspiration for “Love Me Tender”, which is inspired by Euripides “Imphegnia In Tauris”).

        And I’d never limit what I consider theatre to be what I personally can can and can’t direct. There’s several pieces I couldn’t direct myself but which I’d consider perfectly adaptable (and, yes, I’d find Love Me Tender a challenge). And Performance Art is theatre. Whether or not it’s something I personally enjoy … well, let’s go back to my comments about Joe Woodward. It has to be very well done to be something worth watching.

      • chilver

        Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 1:17 pm

        Okay, you’ve got me! I’m being lazy with terminology, and I will accept that it might be theatre. I should probably be using the term ‘drama’ to identify my disappointment with what Love Me Tender is not.

        What the Ancient Greeks did was protodrama, emerging from poetry and over many centuries developing into something more recognisable as drama. It was not until the late sixth century that Kallias even used the character’s voice, and as you say, even this was still with description over depiction. But that time, around 500BC, is within a century of Athens’ fast decline and the centuries of transition, during which drama came to be a European, and not merely a Greek art form. My point is that drama doesn’t belong to Ancient Greece, and just because the Greeks did it, doesn’t mean we should. By the time of Rome’s decline, drama had been stamped as a depicting, and not merely a describing art form. Its development has allowed it to become more engaging, more connected with its audience, and more true to humanity. What we are producing now is, in my opinion, vastly superior to what they produced in Ancient Greece (though some of modern dramatists’ superiority may be attributable to quantity rather than quality), and it would be a real tragedy if that was not the case.

        So yes, Greek tragedy is a valid form of theatre, but it’s also a beta version, and has been superseded. If in modern times we are going to take a lead from the Ancients on any aspect of drama or even theatre more broadly, I think we should follow those forms, patterns, or concepts that are better than a more modern alternative. And that’s where Holloway (possibly this production, but I think its actually in the script) disappoints me. He takes a superseded form, and replicates it.

  2. thatguy

    Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 5:37 pm

    See, I think there are elements of those ancient forms that are absolutely relevant now (and, yes, there are others that should be updated). The Belvoir production of “Love Me Tender” had the performers telling of what had happened in the style you refer to, but at the same time it was abundantly clear that they were living and feeling these moments right now – immediately, in front of us, in this place. And yes, that’s a fundamental requirement of what I enjoy in theatre – that you must feel and engage in the story here and now. And if that didn’t happen – knowing, as I do, that I’ve seen a production of this script where that happened for me … I can only assume that it’s a production fault with the one you saw.

    • chilver

      Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 6:15 pm

      Now we’re getting somewhere! I agree, many elements of the Ancient forms are relevant, and I’d go a little further to say that those we haven’t reinvigorated hitherto could potentially be made relevant again. I’d even potentially extend that to the describe/depict debate; it is possible that describing events that occurred off stage rather than actually staging them could be made relevant, but I’m just not convinced Holloway’s done it.

      If I get a chance to see another production, you’ve convinced me to give it a go to see if I can be swayed. I’ve got to admit, there was that episode (the one I described briefly as being suitable for a short play) where the father was describing his daughter, and then turned to feeling that he needed to defend his experience. As he defended himself, something was happening on stage, but the event he described was the platform on which it happened, not the event. The event was the moment between the father and the chorus. And that was something essential.


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