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August 4, 2008 | by  | in Theatre |
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The Mall & Luv

The Mall & Luv
Written and Directed by Thomas
Sainsbury
At Bats
July 22 – 26

It’s a sad fact but there are some days when it’d be quite nice if your boss died violently and your workplace was destroyed in fiery death. The Mall follows the ironically complex and drama filled lives of retail employees struggling in a faceless corporate world. We’ve all taken on dead end jobs, working in supermarket or fast food outlets to pay the bills. The premise is that you can leave this dump as soon as better prospects come along. What about the ones left behind, the ones with no motive to leave or the BA students who studied their passion over their career prospects? How many years can you stack shelves and serve the ethically stunted beast that is the general public before you break and start killing everyone?

Luv also works with the darker elements of modern society. What happens to love in a world of instant communication? Is ‘virtual love’ a serious phenomenon in modern society or just an exciting new way of getting stalked? Luv follows the story of four characters and the drama of their lives; a gay guy who blackmails a broadcasting company into making a reality TV show about his evidently uninteresting love life, a woman trying to improve her perfect world through plastic surgery who ends up destroying her face, a stalker who dies in her arms, and a girl in love. In other words something like your average soap opera.

The acting in both of these plays was fantastic. The entire cast managed to pull off the apparently stereotypical characters believably. This allowed us to see beyond the labels of the far ranging ethnic and social backgrounds of each character.

I liked the concepts behind The Mall, which deals with the important issues of the alienating corporatisation of workplaces and bureaucracies. It gets easy to lose people in paperwork and goal displacement. Of course, people seriously disillusioned with their leaders have a tendency kill them all horrifically.

Likewise Luv revolves around the virtual face most of us now present to the world through things like Facebook, Bebo and even texting. Can you love someone you’ve never had any physical connection with? Instant communication forces us to create an illusion of a person that probably isn’t accurate. Virtual love is more falling in love with your imagination, which is not a hard thing to do, Narcissus eat your heart out.

My only possible problem with these plays is that they don’t seem quite complete. The ideas are good, but the script could use some editing. Mostly I just felt like too much was going on, it seemed more like a showcase of the artist’s talent then a well rounded performance. Cutting out some of the subplots and expanding the important themes would help communicate and explore the key concepts more effectively. On the other hand, some might enjoy the rapid action and snap character changes as the play weaves their often quite ironic stories through the dramatic and sociopathic worlds of the plays.

Director and writer Thomas Sainsbury has his finger on the pulse of modern society. These performances offer a real insight into life in the technological age. Coupled with a fantastically versatile cast, this made for two powerfully charged and brilliantly executed performances.

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