By Brad Fraser
Directed by Wayne Chapple
With Verity Charlton, Kate Cole, Olivia Connolly, Brett Cousins, Daniel Frederiksen, Vincent Miller & David Whiteley
Lighting by Nick Merrylees
Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love (April 10 – May 5, 2002)- Helen Thompson, The Age 18-Apr-02
This 1989 Canadian play was made into a film, Love and Human Remains, in 1994. The play certainly has cinematic qualities, particularly its structure of rapid, brief scenes that gradually knit together the seven characters. It also has a tense subplot of violent murder that gradually works its way to the centre of the action and creates a thrilling conclusion.
The title’s reference to the true nature of love signals its concern with sexual identity as well as emotional commitment. Flatmates David (David Whiteley), who is gay, and Candy (Verity Charlton) find themselves involved in relationships that test their sexual orientations. Candy allows herself to be briefly seduced by Jerri (Olivia Connolly), while David is pursued by the hero-worshipping but straight Kane (Brett Cousins).
But it is Robert (Daniel Frederiksen) who seems a better bet for Candy, while the real love of David’s life seems to be his married, heterosexual friend Bernie (Vincent Miller).
Meanwhile, David’s mind-reading friend who is a prostitute, Benita (Kate Cole), provides David with “readings” of his friends. She also contributes a chilling background monologue that details a variety of gruesome murder-mutilations.
What makes this more than sitcom territory – their messy, tangled lives, their search for love, something that might give meaning to their existences – is the menace that stalks their home town.
Fraser’s writing is tight, witty and sometimes surprising. His characters are all strongly delineated individuals who collectively sum up the angst of the 1980s. His employment of a thriller plot is skilful and effective.
By finally revealing that one of this group is the killer, Fraser tests the parameters of “love” in an interesting way. He also suggests that love has nothing to do with sexual orientation in the end.
The performances from this actors’ group are all excellent. The ensemble work is well paced and sympathetically developed. Whiteley as David gives a particularly compelling performance, suggesting depths of sadness only just kept at bay, which sums up the lack of hope for the character’s whole generation. Charlton is equally impressive as Candy, another young person with no obvious path ahead of her. Miller develops the challenging character of Bernie with great skill, and the entire play depends upon this for its success.
Unidentified Human Remains is another impressive production from Red Stitch, a new theatre group to watch.