Sydney Arts Guide
By Roger Balch
I Love Todd Sampson
You’d have to be desperate to be in love with Todd Sampson, given that he is already happily married with a couple of kids. And middle-aged Laura, the ‘I’ in the play’s title, is desperate, to the point of despair.
The performance of I LOVE TODD SAMPSON, written by Michelle St Anne, begins with the audience being shepherded outside the foyer and bar then along the wharf, and entering sliding doors that reveal one woman dressed in black labouriously hauling another along on a rope.
Looking along to the right of the rough-hewn old wharf shed, various shapes, colours and lights tail off into the distance and it’s obvious we’ll be walking down there; but not at all obvious then that we will also be going upstairs. To Everest.
Meanwhile, behind us is a boxed-in suburban-style lounge complete with venetian blinds, which is where the action moves to next and where the empty, haunted face of Laura (played by Gabrielle Quinn) is painful to watch.
To detail what happens over the following 80 minutes or so would spoil the experience, which is what this play most enthrallingly is. The play is a gripping journey through one woman’s craziness, her troubled mindscape evocatively realised by the many sets created by the play’s architects (they are described as such in the credits).
And what of Todd? The stubbly, T-shirt wearing TV show ad guy appears, in this heavily performance-art leaning play, as a heavily edited TV clip and a disembodied voice… And most powerfully as an image in a fantasy sequence projected onto a screen while the ‘real-life’ Laura reaches for and beseeches her beloved alone on her bed, her movements expertly mirroring her movements on the screen. When Laura gets off her bed and wanders through the warehouses’ detritus, her clutching and longing for Todd is reminiscent of WUTHERING HEIGHTS at its most gothic.
I LOVE TODD SAMPSON is an unmissable multi-disciplinary theatre work integrating architecture, installation art, light, music, film and performance. Its meaning may be beyond you but you’ll be in awe of the installations, and the entire work is underpinned by a powerful performance from Gabrielle Quinn ably supported by the rest of the cast.
Just to flag a few issues that may be of concern to some theatregoers. A strobe lighting effect appears towards the end of the performance; no toilet facilities are available during the 90-minute performance; there’s absolutely no entry to the performance after it starts; and, given the historic wooden flooring of Pier 2/3, high heels aren’t recommended.