Fleet wins with lost-love play

DAVID ZAMPATTI
Tegan Mulvany, Shane Adamczak and Greg Fleet.

THEATRE

This is Not a Love Song

By Greg Fleet

Four stars

Blue Room

REVIEW DAVID ZAMPATTI

A remarkable thing about stand-up comedian Greg Fleet is how unfunny he is. He doesn't pull funny faces or do funny voices, and he doesn't crack jokes. What he does, though, is tell stories about life and its vicissitudes, mixing an audacious combination of logic and absurdity from which the human comedy grows like bread rising in an oven.

Fleet brings this considerable skill to his debut play, This is Not a Love Song, and it's a cracker. It's also going to be a runaway hit.

It's the story of the arc of a love affair between two twenty-somethings, James (Shane Adamczak) and Soph (Tegan Mulvany, who also directs with clarity) in 1980s Australia, as remembered by an older James (Fleet) three decades later.

Their time together is measured out in songs, and there's a swag of them, nattily integrated into the story and performed by the cast with gusto and artful amateurishness, accompanied by the far-from-amateurish Michael de Grussa.

They belt out well-known (McCartney's Silly Love Songs, Split Enz's Message to My Girl, Australian Crawl's Reckless), obscure (Warren Zevon's heartbreaking Accidentally Like a Martyr) and guilty (Darryl Braithwaite's Horses; Jefferson Starship's We Built this City) pleasures. A midnight audience sing-along would be a smash.

There's much more here than love songs, though. The sureness with which Fleet exploits his material is outstanding for a first-time playwright - no doubt enlisting Mulvany's celebrated sister Kate as dramaturge will have been valuable. Having two actors playing one character has its snares but they never catch Fleet out, even when he breaks a raft of conventions in the play's final twist.

Small touches, like Soph wearing James' T-shirt, give a topography to their relationship, while Fleet plays with the audience throughout - we become a painting James and Soph are admiring; the tragic story of the death of James's father is lifted straight from the movies (twice) - and there's joy and pain throughout, right through to a sweet, sad last line that ties the whole story up beautifully.

Adamczak and Mulvany are both marvellous, Christian Barratt's design captures 80s shared-house living neatly, and Fleet is as unfunny as always.

I've had to dock the show one star because, unforgivably, they haven't included Toto's Africa but, frankly, there's nothing much else to criticise.

Be quick. Tickets will get as rare as hen's teeth.

This is Not a Love Song runs until September 6.