Theatre Review: Love / Hate Actually at the Brisbane Powerhouse

Love, Actually is one of those Christmas films that had a significant impact on me the first time I saw it. I’ve since seen it more than once, and each time it has elicited a similar set of emotions within me that have confounded many. I absolutely detested the film and felt it was a ridiculously bad use of an incredible cast. I found its glib, surface level postcard views on what love supposedly was genuinely distasteful and it had an impact on me that carried through to the present day. When I heard that there was a show at the Wonderland Festival dedicated to those who either love or hate the film in question, I knew I had to go.

My expectations around a show with such a specific agenda were guarded, wondering how such a specific concept could make for an entertaining hour. Perhaps it was this low expectation, or more likely it was because it was a production from the consistently great Act / React, but this was one of the funniest, most entertaining and absurd pieces of theatre I’ve witnessed in a long time.

Conscious of the fact that the audience may not remember every single detail about the film, or may have never seen it at all, Amy Currie and Natalie Bochenski are such charismatic, thoughtful entertainers, that the film itself almost becomes secondary to the spectacle that the show becomes.

It’s an incredibly tight, accomplished, cleverly scripted piece whose appeal is amplified through the amazing chemistry these two consummate performers have together. They finish each other’s lines and the script flows with a joyous ease that reflects the copious time and effort that must have gone into this piece.

One of the ways in which they bring variation to the subject matter to keep interest is through a series of set pieces which break up the narrative in consistently hilarious ways. Audience participation, telling the difference between art and pornography, learning what’s appropriate in an office environment, each one lands perfectly. These segments help give variation to the format, though these characters are so interesting they could happily just stick to monologues and you’d be hanging onto their every word.

As with every great production, they realise the importance of the ending and leaving the audience on a high. By raising the stakes and thematically calling back to the themes explored throughout the show is incredibly well done and satisfying to watch. I didn’t know what to expect from this production, but it’s clear that it’s a labour of love from those created it. The whole thing was so beautifully delivered you’d be forgiven for thinking that you were watching the hundredth performance rather than the second.

The performance ended with a sincere standing ovation that seemed to genuinely overwhelm the performers as the crowd showed their appreciation for what they had witnessed. This was a rowdy Friday night crowd who almost threatened to derail things at points with their over-enthusiastic joining in. Though it was annoying to hear occasional talking during the performance, they were commenting on what they were seeing. The whole thing having moved them to the point where they joined in with a child-like innocence. There’s no better praise than that.

Reviewer attended the performance on Friday December 1st 2017. 

Its season at the Brisbane Powerhouse has now ended. For more details please head HERE: https://brisbanepowerhouse.org/events/2017/11/30/lovehate-actually/