By Chenoah Eljan
Every seat is filled for Victorian Theatre Company’s production of Angus Cameron’s For Love Nor Money. Word has got out, this is, quite literally, one to watch. It is a story about an aspiring poet, Liam (Alexander Lloyd), and an aspiring filmmaker, Mel (Clarisse Bonello), with not quite enough money to get by. It is clearly relatable content for the audience who laugh robustly in response to jokes about lives spent writing grants and living in perpetual fear that you might not actually be any good. Cameron’s intimate knowledge of these matters is genuine, and it resonates. Less so can be said of the third character, Ryan (Matthew Connell), loosely described as a politician. He’s the stuffy, boring, ordinary one, with money. Ryan is intended as a contrast to Mel and Liam but he does not hold the mirror up to his own in quite the same way they do. Nonetheless, the relationships between these three are well crafted and compelling.
While the subject matter may have scandalised prior generations, this triad lust-story is squarely of the moment. It is fresh and at times very funny, yet has timeless depth. The role of art in life, what is it, what purpose does it serve, and the drive that some people have to create and pursue it are meaningfully explored in quick dialogue and well-timed silences. Director Justin Nott knows how to make full use of those silences. He creates tension, awkwardness, and intensity best in the places between the words. The play is not in chronological order and Nott chose to mark these transitions in time by having the actors change costumes on stage. It would be a mistake to think the actors repeatedly stripping to their underwear before the audience is intended to titillate. Instead, it is a beautiful allegory that irrespective of who we are pretending to be to the world, underneath all our various facades and personas, there exists a constant core of vulnerability. Nott uses music well and often. He has selected it as though scoring a film, which is cleverly self-referential given the role of film and discussion of filmmaking as an art. Lloyd, Bonello and Connell all give very strong performances and hold steadfast to their characters throughout. Lloyd in particular is captivating as Liam; his delivery and mannerism seemingly unrehearsed, he is at home on stage and as Liam.
For all its underwear exhibitionism and study of the contemporary challenges of thrupling, For Love Nor Money is at its heart an exploration of self-sufficiency and what it means to use another person. Mel is self-directed in her journey, eyes fixed on the prize and intentional in her choices. She invites others into her life to serve a purpose and to propel her forward. Conversely, Liam has no forward motion, he expects those around him to carrying him as they go. So, who is the user and who is being used? In the end, one gets what they wanted and the other will never be happy because of it. For Love Nor Money is a poignant reminder that love, sex, life and getting where you intend to go will always be a zero-sum game if you see it that way.