LOVEBites – a Song Cycle by Peter Rutherford and James Millar; Downstairs at the Seymour Centre, June 20-July 2008; ph: 9351 7940 or SeymourOnline. Director Kim Hardwick, Designer Martin Kinnane; Cast: Octavia Barron Martin, Tyler Burness, Sarah Croser, James Millar
JAMES Millar (lyrics) and Peter Rutherford (composer and onstage pianist) are exciting talents whose versatility promises much for the future. After creating the semi-historical, gothic-horror musical The Hatpin, they have moved about as far away as you could imagine with LOVEBites.
The songs and characters of LOVEBites follow the mixed, often hilarious and occasionally sad fortunes of various permutations of human relationships. For any of us (that means all of us) with a memory of a fabulous, infuriating, excruciating, embarrassing, beautiful or mourned beginning and end of a relationship, there’s an echo of those experiences in LOVEBites.
The authenticity in the songs and characters provoke hoots of laughter and groans of recognition in the audience and as uber-singer-songwriter-comic-cabaret creator extraordinaire Phil Scott commented, “That’s the best musical with a song about poo I’ve ever seen.” (I would have liked to claim the observation as my own but honesty, and the fact that others were listening and laughing, forbid it.)
The four performers are as sassy, sharp and on the money as the material demands. They know what they’re doing – with satirical nods to the various fashionable musical genres (Sondheim, syrupy ballads, pert cabaret numbers and so on) and have the goods to deliver: good voices, harmonies and humour. Octavia Barron Martin’s sweet paean to a dead lover is lump in the throat territory, while James Millar’s dawning realisation of the story behind “The Plastic Bag” song is a joy to behold. At other moments, Sarah Croser demonstrates the peculiar sexual appeal of flight attendants and very confined spaces and Tyler Burness’s klutzy approach to the byzantine mysteries of book group etiquette and flirting is a further delight.
Martin Kinnane’s design of three hanging panels on which projections add visual jokes and signals is simple and effective in the Downstairs black box. It’san excellent space for this kind of show. And the show itself works very well in the intimate, sophisticated atmosphere. All in all, LOVEBites is an exhilarating night out that will have you laughing, snuffling into your hankie, wriggling with recollections of your own past faux pas and finally celebrating the talent and exuberance of the show’s cast and creatives. More like this please.