When I asked I Want to Know What Love is co-creator Amy Ingram to describe her show to me, she called it “a roller coaster”.
She could not have been more accurate.
Currently playing at Chapel Off Chapel as part of PROVOCARÉ Festival, I Want to Know What Love is is the kind of exhilarating ride only a roller coaster, or the theatre, can provide. Over 60 minutes, the cast from Queensland-based performance collective The Good Room present a show framed around submissions from 812 anonymous individuals that both celebrate and warn of the highs and lows of love, loss, lust, heartbreak and yearning. It’s energetic, tumultuous, and moving.
It starts off rather innocuously: a spotlit microphone stands in the middle of the stage, next to a speaker pumping out fragments of classic love songs. Pink lights glare, then cut away to darkness. Tom Cossettini stumbles towards the audience, seemingly searching for someone special in the crowd.
What follows is a hilarious and courageous moment that captures the heart of the performance, and hints at the sudden yet smooth shifts in tone set to come.
Cossettini is soon joined by Ingram and Emily Tomlins, who lift the audience with joyful submissions that revel in romance. The trio are quickly consumed by the manic energy that comes only from blossoming love; an energy that pulsates through the room as rose petals rain down, and fourth cast member Margi Brown-Ash enters the stage. It’s intense, almost uncomfortably so.
Then comes the drop.
As is expected, not all of these love stories will end happily ever after. Some are fuelled by anger. Some, by fear. Others, passion.
Each twist and turn is delivered sensationally by the cast, who balance vulnerability, compassion, and humour with honesty and reverence. Each submission rings with relatability, but it’s the performances that make them as moving as they are.
Production design is simple, but visually arresting. I Want to Know What Love is may be a piece centred on the text, but The Good Room’s dedication to potent imagery is evident throughout.
The show’s run at PROVOCARÉ marks only the third time I Want to Know What Love is has been staged, following sold-out seasons at 2014’s Brisbane Festival and the 2015 Wonderland Festival. It precedes a national tour slated for 2019, which will prove a must-see experience for anyone interested in such experiences.
Ingram says they will be calling for new submissions beforehand, in order to ensure the performance remains reflective of modern love. Can they get any more provocative? Time will tell.
I Want to Know What Love is is a sublime testament to the reality of love. Like all good roller coasters, it knows exactly when to end, while leaving you talking about the experience long after it’s over. All said and done, this is a ride you will not want to miss.
I Want to Know What Love is will play at Chapel on Chapel until July 15 as part of PROVOCARE Festival.