Grand Central Underground at The GC
Until 10 Mar 2019

Review by Paige Mulholland

Presented at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival

The description for this show labels it a “five star, award winning play”, and this is accurate – the show did indeed win awards and earn excellent reviews and hugely successful seasons when it debuted in 2014. Unfortunately seems that since then the cast has changed, the crowds have waned, and the show has lost the focus and the emotional power that once defined it.

“This is Not a Love Song” follows the story of James and Soph, a music-loving couple who fall in love and, faced with differences in ambition and breakdowns in communication, fall apart, with a soundtrack of popular rock songs smattered through. What’s missing is dimension – we see that James and Soph are in love, but we don’t see how it happened, how they met, or what qualities connected them (other than a similar music taste), and we see them fall apart, but we don’t really learn what caused that either; Soph is identified as the more ambitious of the two, but what are her ambitions? She’s always at work, but what is her job? Why does she crave the intimacy that James is so unwilling to give her? Why is James so unwilling? Without any real character development, the show feels hazy and dim.

Sure, it’s a show about pot-smoking James and his inability to connect with those he loves, or even remember them as accurately as he’d like, but his inability to connect shouldn’t mean the audience can’t connect either.

The cast had moments of strong characterisation, but struggled with the vocal demands of the show, particularly the harmonies. Why someone decided that harmonies were necessary in a show where Fleet’s character says, early on, that the characters loved to sing but aren’t very good at it is unclear. The actors seemed to be reaching for lines, and unsure of their blocking.

The set did seem like a living room straight out of a working class, early 2000s home, which created the grungy vibe that Fleet seemed to be going for. And the audience, however small, did let out a few chuckles at some of the show’s stronger jokes. Hopefully Fleet can restore it to its former glory.

Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5)