The five members of the Board of a pharmaceutical company are nearing the end of an expensive process of research and development. Their new drug, “The Remedy”, is set to be trialled, marketed and then released. CEO Carmen is determined for her hard work and investment to pay off, and pushes her colleagues to share her dreams of success. Market research has shown more potential for a drug that cures “heartache” rather than “love”, and so a suitably heartbroken young woman, Emily, is recruited to be the trial subject. As the weeks of the trial proceed, arguments from Emily’s friends and family, protests by public figures and differences of opinion in the Board’s own ranks reveal shortcomings with the drug’s concept. On paper, the results from the trial are not delivering as hoped, enraging Carmen and driving her to stronger measures and more extreme tactics.
The cast works together smoothly as an ensemble. The five Board members are each clearly defined at the beginning and continue to play consistently, as individuals and interacting players, throughout. Each performer has marked control of stylised facial expressions and the synchronised choreography of even small movements is very effective on the compact stage. The body language of rejection and ostracism when the group turns against the leader is clear and coherently presented. Jacinta Larcombe’s Emily presents as a vivid contrast to the Board members, someone without an ulterior motive, her flowing red dress also a visual contrast to the monochromatic black and white corporate outfits of the rest of the cast, a dynamic clash with the stark tones of the simple set. In contrast to the graphs and charts-driven Board Members, Larcombe brings a dreamer to the stage.
Phoebe Sullivan as Carmen, the CEO, gleefully brings the fiercely determined narcissist and masterful manipulator to the stage. She brings out the sense of Carmen’s unapologetic moral compromise through strong physical presence and a habit of dominating interactions with other characters. Zoe Hollyoak as Board Member 1 is pure emotional conscience, strongly depicting the role’s passive unhappiness. Contrasting with the other corporate roles’ approach to the pharmaceutical industry, it’s no coincidence that Hollyoak also plays the role of Emily’s mother, the nurturing aspects of one part amplifying the moral outrage of the other. Tristan Balz as Board Member 2 allows the character’s moral cowardice and fear of societal judgement to come through strongly, all the while displaying remarkable eyes and teeth in set scenes from advertising campaigns. As Board Member 4, the secret lover of BM2, Mariah O’Dea is simultaneously naïve and conniving. O’Dea is able to strike grotesque poses in the quest to perform well at her job and feature in advertising copy with enthusiasm. Tristan McInnes has fun with his tightly controlled creation of the superficial and compliant Board Member 5, his comic timing combining with clever posing to deliver an enjoyably slick role.
Director Rachael Woodward brings out many aspects of the underlying themes as well as pushing actors to entertain while exploring the production’s nuances. Set Designer Olivia Tartaglia keeps things starkly simple, matching the crisp black and white of the costuming. Clean lines and brisk movements contrast effectively with interludes of rose petals tumbling unexpectedly, a lovely recurring visual metaphor.
What’s Love Got To Do With It? has a few minor aspects that could benefit from more time for the workshopping process, but overall this clever and entertaining show is another exciting work from The Cutting Room Floor.
The Cutting Room Floor presents
What’s Love Got To Do With It?
devised by Jacinta Larcombe, Tristan Balz, Mariah O’Dea, Tristan McInnes, Phoebe Sullivan and Zoe Hollyoak
Director Rachael Woodward
Venue: The Blue Room Theatre | Perth Cultural Centre
Dates: 7 – 25 June 2016