The fraught love triangle playing out in Dirt writer Angus Cameron’s latest knotty work, For Love Nor Money, is physically demarcated by the cool blue lines of three pale blue neon tubes arranged in a literal triangle. In the intimate space of the Trades Hall Meeting Room, this pointed arena serves to highlight not only the push and pull of three competing lovers and their conflicting agendas, but also suggests the chilly hue frosting the hearts of those who can manipulate another soul in their most unguarded, vulnerable and near-naked moments of longing.
Not that anyone’s entirely innocent in this bracingly zippy work of tightly composed and delivered dialogue and non-linear noodling that constantly upends your assumptions of who’s after what, why and when. A dashingly handsome, top-knotted Alexander Lloyd plays open-hearted poet Liam. He’s dating emerging filmmaker Mel, depicted by a commanding Clarisse Bonello who has the air of a Margot Robbie or Greta Gerwig type in this contemporary riff on Harold Pinter’s classic text Betrayal.
With her sights set firmly on kicking her career into high gear in Los Angeles, he worries about how realistic success is and how far their non-existent savings can stretch in a town littered with shattered dreams. Breaching this do-si-do of a tête-à-tête is a slippery Matthew Connell slickly and icily presenting political operative Ryan. Used to navigating backroom deals and plausibly deniable back-stabbing for both the (unnamed) Party and personal advancement, it checks out that he’s the mercenary making a ram raid for Mel’s attentions on the eve of her and Liam leaving town. Perhaps his position and financial backing can help pave her path towards that golden Oscar? Or maybe there’s more to this than meets the eye.
No power play is quite that transparent in these emotionally shifting sands adroitly directed by Justin Nott (Variations or Exit Music) and presented by Victorian Theatre Company. That cold, rigid blue triangle is flanked by two clothes racks laden with costumes, which Nott and fellow set designer Alisha Abate cleverly deploy to signal the chess manoeuvres at play here by having each of the performers strip and don new skins at crucial junctures. Generally playing out as a two-hander at any one time, the third player not involved in any given moment sits on a chair at one of the triangle’s brittle points, observing unseen the moments beyond their literal grasp within the work.
Being confronted by what you would never say in front of another person is a remarkable way to play with our heartstrings and what our desires betray. Cameron’s For Love Nor Money is an exhilarating new work with a lot to say in under one hour that cracks along at a thrilling, Aaron Sorkin-like pace thanks to Nott’s deft direction and an impressive ensemble on top of this duplicitous game. When the situation transforms for Mel, the shift is just as stark for Liam and Ryan in an erotically charged work that challenges gender dynamics and sexual boundaries as we leap through the gaps of this twirling triumvirate in which anyone can be cut by broken glass at a moment’s notice.