Love Cupboard can be neatly summarised as the story of an adolescent girl who isolates herself from the rest of her life to live with her boyfriend (hence the love); and to avoid discovery, hides in a cupboard in his lounge room (hence the cupboard). The story is as quaint as its title.
The circumstances of the plot are very similar to those of Natasha Ryan, who was found in 2003, living with her boyfriend in Rockhampton and hiding in a wardrobe to avoid discovery for five years. Writer Emma Gibson denies that Love Cupboard is based on Natasha’s experience, but her story must have played a part in inspiring the play. What Gibson has done remarkably well is to develop from this plot a great story that seems to focus on the point at which young love either turns into long love, or dies.
Annabel, our school-age cupboard-dweller, made a decision to leave her family and friends and live with her boyfriend, Warren, in secret. Ensconced all day with books about love as she waits for Warren to come home from work, and hidden in a cupboard whenever someone comes to visit, Annabel’s existence fails to live up to the ideal in the stories she reads. Two years later, with police still searching for her, her parents still distraught, the media still hungry for an end to the story, and everyone focusing their questions on Warren, Annabel must compare her life in fiction with her own experiences of doubt, loneliness and frustration. This exploration is carried out magnificently by Hanna Cormick, who absolutely shines in this production.
While Annabel is the central character, she doesn’t spend as much time on stage as her boyfriend. Nor does she undergo any substantial transformation. Warren, however, undergoes many changes in demeanour, in many scenes finding himself on a journey of discovery and at least once on something of a rollercoaster of emotions. The role is certainly the most challenging of the play, with a complex set of relationships to the other characters, further complicated by frequent fantasy scenes from the great romance stories of literature, and made still more arduous by the fact that every other character spent the bulk of the play either in a sense of heightened realism or as little more than caricature.
I felt that Scott Cummings, as Warren, failed in most instances to rise to this challenge and take the audience with him. His delivery was often flat, his gesticulation overworked, and he simply didn’t manage to elicit the empathy that is necessary for the willing suspension of disbelief. Warren’s humorous lines were perhaps his saving grace, but this character really needed further development in rehearsal.
Unfortunately, I don’t feel that this production has done justice to Gibson’s script. In the director’s notes, Pete Butz says, “Emma’s script is so deep and multi-faceted that it was possible to take it anywhere we wanted”. Although I doubt it could be turned into an exploration of the Russian Revolution, I agree that the dialogue and plot is open to multiple interpretations, and I would love to see a production of Love Cupboard that takes some of these alternative pathways.
The Street Theatre and Hot New Sensation present
Venue: Street 2, Childers St Canberra City West
Dates/Times: Thursday 29 April 2010 - Saturday 1 May at 7.30pm
Twilight performance: Sunday 2 May at 4pm
Tickets: Standard $20, Concession $15, Groups $15
Bookings: 6247 1223 | www.thestreet.org.au