I (Love) You – Eliza Oliver and self expression. (Theatre Review)

I (Love) You

Old 505 Theatre

18 – 29 June. You can grab your tickets here.

Up until very recent times, the form-giving subject has always been male. But not only male. We live inside a paradox: language proves the sexuality of the peridium of ‘living’ while all language (governed by science) maintains that discourse is neuter. This mirrors the Lacanian notion that to declare a thing is the reinforce it. [1] While claiming language, science and philosophy address ‘human’ issues that are neuter we exist inside the naivety of a subject that never interrogates itself, never looks back toward its constitution and never questions its contradictions. It is this premise that forges the basis for Eliza Oliver’s play I (love) You. Inside this futuristic world, two women find their bodies and their abilities to make something (anything) controlled by language. It’s a big, ambitious premise that Eliza Oliver successfully navigates in a thrilling one-hour drama that comes to a stunning conclusion in its final minutes. Repetition, daily grind, and endless incompletion is not usually sexy subject matter for a play, but Eliza Oliver has arduously crafted a cerebral experience that conveys sophisticated themes with great finesse.

Questions that I (Love) You pose stem from a Donald Trump sourced ‘post-truth’ world. Surely the greatest achievement of Donald Trump is the final stripping of all recourse to a just knowing, but this has the reverse advantage of stripping the prevailing hegemony of its power. Academics, scientists, philosophers, sociologists and linguists (the high priests of knowing) are all forced into reflexive examinations as they come to terms with what they have allowed to blossom under their watch. This has forced writers and other thinkers into examining who we are and where we stand in relation to knowing and what it is to know. For Eliza Oliver, the question of ‘body ownership’ provides some insight into problems facing a post truth world. For Eliza Oliver, her living beings (insofar as they are alive) are a becoming. They produce form. All becoming is morphologically differentiated, even if its source is chaotic. Do the characters of I (love) You still have something to say? Do they still have meaning to produce? What are these things in a world where an inserted chip prevents even the lies we use to buy ourselves emotional time, or protect those we love from an unnecessary truth? The fundamental question of how a subject comes back to itself after having exited itself within a discourse becomes one for her characters age, but like all philosophical points, it resonates with our own.

This rupture between our own language, the language we program ourselves and the one that comes back to us finds some version of authenticity in the body. Repetition becomes the mother of an inflective based communication, which in itself moves deeper into the body. When information is transmitted to and through a certain number of mechanisms (as with the characters in the play) a various number of languages, a various number of sectors of society the rupture widens. We lose sense of who we are speaking to, where we are coming from, how to not get lost and most of all what are we actually saying. As we see in I (Love) You, words can go through a distillation process that strips them of potency. We are left, again as always, with the understanding that an ethics of neutrality can only be developed very slowly, and through rigorous analysis of discourse and discourses.[2]

I (Love) You is a wonderful little play, full of enormous themes that enrich and excite the mind while experiencing the stimulating proximity (closeness of the bodies?) of theatre. Eliza Oliver is an ambitious writer who hopefully has been invigorated to stay with large themes through the success of this play. For this incarnation at The Old 505 (and good on The Old 505 as always for giving us experimental and avant garde theatre) I (Love) You is directed by Shannan Ely and performed by Chelsea Needham and Cassandra Sorrell. The performances are stellar, easily navigating the complexity of subject matter and successfully conveying the beauty of the body and the expressive physical. It’s all plonked on a marvelous Ruth Arnold set that sees walls as windows, bodies on display and minds open to invasion while hiding under a pretense of protection. There is also some very clever manipulation of Ikea furniture that delights the witness.

I (Love) You is a very warmly welcome production in a city who is losing its theatre spaces to soulless professional polish. It’s very funny, cheeky and delightful in its chaotic examinations that come together in a well-constructed whole that excites the imagination and inspires the creative impulse. This is a great little production that will excite challenging questions. Take your friends and talk it over into the night.

[1] Very broadly speaking, it is the notion that declaring something is not so gives a discrete permission to continue. A good example is the arguments against White Ribbon Day, that the earnest premise has simply allowed for sexual assault to continue under the guise of ‘we are trying to fix it.’

[2] I’m heavily under the influence of Luce Irigaray and her fantastic book ‘To Speak is Never Neutral’