I was lucky enough to see a preview of this early in the week. A collaboration between Sean Monro and Rose Kokkoris that's been developed through the Salamanca Arts Centre HyPe program, it's being presented as a double bill with Fiona Stewart's Bijou's Secret.
Legs, Elbows, Lips is a marvellously rich depiction of romantic relationship gone wrong – or perhaps just a romantic relationship; perhaps the play is saying that all romantic relationships go wrong. Or that going wrong is somehow right?
Abbie and Russell met on a bus, admiring each other's elbows, and after a first date that involved Russell spontaneously buying a gym membership and Abbie not having an orgasm, they began living together.
We discover, not always chronologically, what has gone on between them and how Russell has disappointed Abbie (it involves infidelity with a high-jumper) and why Russell could be forgiven for thinking that Abbie is completely nuts (it involves a sudden and inexplicable malady of the legs).
As with any farce – and it has that feel about it although it's a two-hander that's part naturalism part surrealism – they're somewhat at cross-purposes. Through a combination of pre-recorded and live dialogue, combined with playful physical tableaus, the performers (who have co-written the piece as well) reveal an interior landscape that is recognisable, poignant and extremely funny.
The standout for me is the breakfast table scene, where nothing is said, but every thought in Abbie and Russell's heads (through 'voiceover') is revealed. There's so much behind this mundane scene – to speak or not to speak? to kiss each other goodbye or not? why is the coffee so hot? what is he thinking? – that in a way the whole story could have been played out through this moment in time (although I'm glad it wasn't, because then we would have missed the physicality of other scenes).
Monro and Kokkoris have charisma to spare as performers and have created characters that we want to know more about. Where this could be possibly improved is in providing more insight into Russell's motivations, and there are moments when Abbie's righteous anger feels less unique than one would like, but these are minor concerns.
Legs, Elbows, Lips is an original and truly affecting piece of theatre, striking a delicate balance of pathos and humour. Overlapping dialogue is used to good effect at various points, such as in a scene where the couple attempt to explain themselves, until we no longer really know who is saying what and who is feeling what... because it's all part of the same thing.
Salamanca Arts Centre, HyPe and Tas Performs presents
Legs, Elbows, Lips
created and performed by Sean Monro and Rose Kokkoris
Venue: Sidespace Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre | Level 1 / 77 Salamanca Place, Hobart
Dates: Tuesday 22 – Sunday 27 May 2012
Tickets: $35 - $15