Cat's eye view of love
Seven Acts of Love (As Witnessed by a Cat)
Opening at Budinski's Theatre of Exile, Melbourne, August 9
Previewed by Bronwen Beechey
"I like to think that good theatre should operate as a kind of catalyst, and also as social commentary. That's why I'm interested in theatre that steps beyond the real, that has magic and a kind of heightened realism."
This is the philosophy of Tobsha Lerner, one of Australia's most prolific young playwrights. Her previous works, which include Wolf, Mistress, The Glass Mermaid and SNAG have all successfully used this technique to explore aspects of love and relationships in a world where traditional concepts of gender, family and sexuality are crumbling.
"I think that the problems we're all experiencing at the moment are due to an evolutionary hiccup", Lerner said. "The impact of feminism has caused the status quo to be overturned, sexuality is more fluid, and there's a blurring of borders."
These themes are further explored in Seven Acts of Love, which will have its Melbourne premiere on August 9.
"The play is divided into seven short sketches, each showing a gesture of love or emotional commitment. The cat is owned by a character in each sketch, and the characters also interlink through familial relationships and marriage", Lerner explained.
The cat, played by Anthony Wong, provides a link between the sketches, comments on the action, and has his own story to tell. "He's a kind of mythological man-cat, a Cockney tom-cat who has lived seven lives. He's also a womaniser addicted to sexual conquest."
Wong also plays several other roles, including a Japanese "rock god" and a gay student. Robert Morgan, Penelope Stewart and Miki Okawa play the other roles. The settings include a "love hotel" in Osaka, a women's prison and a marriage counsellor's office.
While Seven Acts of Love takes its audience through some intense emotional experiences, Lerner stressed that it is a fundamentally optimistic play which moves from tragedy to comedy. "I wasn't trying to make any great moralistic statements; it's more looking at the prosaic as well as the epic nature of love. It takes in a broader definition of love than just the sexual. I think it's often the small gestures of love that are really revolutionary."