Loving Dick

Sat 3rd – Sat 24th August 2013

reviews

James Bell

at 10:15 on 19th Aug 2013

2agrees

2disagrees

The provocatively titled ‘Loving Dick,’ a Leading Van production written and performed by recent theatre graduates, promises a “slice-of-life comedy” that grapples with the question: “What is sex?” What the audience actually got, however, was a somewhat confused and incoherent piece that raised many interesting issues, but failed to develop any of them satisfactorily.

The play follows the lives of three young professionals, Connor (John Mulleady), an uninspired teacher, Lana (Rose van Leyenhorst), an expat of perplexingly indeterminate origin and Max (Daniel Thorn), a boorish classroom assistant. The action is sparked off by the intrusion of Dick, Lana’s mysterious new lover, and throws up questions of personal morality, sexual appetite, gender politics and, more disturbingly, the ways in which we are often the agents of our own destruction. Fascinating questions, undoubtedly, and the play does at times succeed in touching something essential. There are several highly effective moments that suggest that this production might have the power to genuinely move the audience.

Anything positive, however, is overshadowed by some major limitations. On a basic level, the performance felt very rough around the edges; speech was often rushed or delivered in a rather stiff and formulaic manner, as if the actors weren’t fully engaged with what they were saying. More seriously, however, a tendency to rely on generalisations marred the show several times. What was supposed to be a series of character sketches exploring the esoteric inner workings of troubled, but ultimately unremarkable and therefore recognisable individuals soon began to feel like a litany of worn out clichés. The opening scene, for example, shows the two men in a bar trying to chat up women. Frustratingly, both are type cast, Mulleady’s character as the shy nice guy and Thorn’s as the insensitive lout. Examples of this kind litter the production and by the end Lana’s closing gesture of defiance comes across as strangely empty, as she too is following a well-worn role.

The plot was also perplexing and I’m not sure that the twist at the end will come as much of a shock to anyone. There was the annoying sense that much was simply for the sake of being provocative- the graphic descriptions of sex, for example, did very little other than provide a crude way of shocking the audience. All in all, ‘Loving Dick’ has several moments of affecting clarity, but it has a long way to go if it is going to do justice to its endlessly complex subject matter.

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Hannah Greenstreet

at 10:16 on 19th Aug 2013

2agrees

2disagrees

When is sex not sex? When it’s non-penetrative. That was a joke. At least, that’s the kind of joke that ‘Loving Dick’ laced their hour-long show with, as well as long disquisitions on what does and does not constitute sex and gratuitous monologues. Yes, the show really is called ‘Loving Dick’ and, although I can’t type that without sniggering, that’s probably the best joke of the evening.

‘Loving Dick’ is Leading Van Productions’ first play and seems to be intended as a vehicle to showcase the group’s acting abilities (all are graduates of ALRA North). Rose van Leyenhorst is convincing as the man-eating but sensitive Lana and has some chemistry with John Mulleady as the hapless Connor. Daniel Thorn plays Connor’s jocular and crude friend Max with some humour.

However, major flaws in the writing leave the characters two-dimensional. Chucking a few knob jokes into a romcom format as clichéd as the Ryan Gosling films, "Conor loves" does not make for risqué comedy. The Ofsted inspection subplot is boring and completely baffling (despite the time they spent explaining what Ofsted is to us and teaching us fractions). It is as if ‘Loving Dick’ cannot make up its mind about what it is trying to be (and what it is trying to say): the innuendos sit uneasily with the randomly introduced findings of an academic study about sex and love; the frequent monologues introduce clunky exposition and take away from the piece’s impact as a play.

If I were being generous, I would say that ‘Loving Dick’ attempts to offer a frank exploration of different people’s sex lives and sexual morals. But the annoying plot construct takes away from the semblance of frankness, such as when Lana describes experiencing sex so amazing that she has flashbacks of it for days afterwards. There is also something troubling about the sexual politics of the production. On the one hand men are reduced to their dicks, Lana referring only to her mysterious boyfriend as Dick, who is, incidentally, a dick. On the other hand Lana is wildly in love/ lust with this man, who refuses to engage in penetrative sex and will only let her “suck him off”.

There were some details that suggested promise, such as Lana handing out items of clothing to the audience to “look after for her” at the start of the performance, and Max doing shots with a lucky audience member. However, these details could not make up for the massive holes in the script and I ended up hating dick.

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