‘Stop buying protein powder to fill the void – you are the void’ – life advice from an oracle.
Bridget Mackey’s Love/Chamberlain is a deliberately unsettling play about two women who have been accused of murder. Courtney Love, once the wife of Kurt Cobain, and Lindy ‘dingo ate my baby’ Chamberlain meet in a timeless realm on the Federal Highway, searching for an oracle. The play plots out some theoretical ‘possible meetings’ of the pair across time and, while it’s hard to keep up if you don’t know both of their timelines, you do see how the possible relations between these two women.
There are some truly weird scenes intertwining the lives of the two characters. Throughout the play we see Lindy Chamberlain playing the airplane game with her prison meal and then we watch Courtney Love vomit morning sickness on Lindy’s shoes before playing the guitar. Some strange motifs accompany these weird moments – Lindy keeps smelling rotten flesh, Courtney flips between wanting to talk about Kurt Cobain. But none of it really makes sense. Lindy and Courtney don’t meet on the highway until about half way through and while we see some genuinely good moments – such as those in the monologues – it takes a while to get going.
This show adds flavour and complexity to the profiles of these two women, both who received similar treatment from the media and public. You can tell it’s a show about women, made by women. We particularly see this element in the portrayal of Lindy Chamberlain. The play showcases Lindy’s relationship with her children, the public, the church and, most profoundly, herself. I would love to see Love/Chamberlain focuse more on Lindy’s journey as a Seventh Day Adventist, frosty-fruit loving vegetarian, who finds peace in silence and learns to roll joints in prison. But Courtney Love’s tantrums, obsession with fame and her angsty-adolescent demeanour quickly pulls you out of these wonderfully complex moments.
The whole show is tied together by an ‘oracle (in various guises)’ – an omnipresent shape-shifter who participates in both these women’s lives. The oracle acts as a quasi-narrator and ultimately spends the whole show provoking and disturbing both women. Honestly, at times the character felt unnecessary. However, Barb Barnett’s acting in this role is superb and pulls off a range of characters wonderfully – from a background mumbling, to a journalist, petrol station owner, paparazzi photographer, music producer, psychic and car crash victim. Barb keeps the audience engaged, even when any hope of finding a plot in the show seems to be fading into the distance.
All in all, if you want a show that has time travel, angst, a stage formed of shredded newspaper and a musical number, then this may be the show for you. So long as you are willing to sit back and go along for the ride.
Love/Chamberlain is on at the Gorman Arts Centre until 11 November.