Shameless Hussy Productions
Love Bomb book & lyrics by Meghan Gardiner, music and additional lyrics by Steve Charles

Dates and Venue September 26 - October10, 2015 at various times | Firehall Arts Centre

Director Renee Iaci Set and Costume Design Drew Facey Lighting Design Itai Erdal Stage Manager Pamela Jakobs

Justine Sara Vickruck Lillian Deb Pickman

Reviewer Elizabeth Paterson

Shameless Hussy and Meghan Gardiner have worked together before on the very successful Dissolve, a one-woman show about date rape. This time the subject is sex-trafficking in a story told through music and song. Music by “Justine Chambers” (Sara Vickruck),

That is what Lillian (Deb Pickman) is desperately trying to discover. She is so sure the words are her missing daughter’s she barges into Justine’s pre-show sound-check, in a down-at-heels night-club, to confront the singer. She bullies Justine into admitting she found the song lyrics in a notebook in the back of a car. Extremely reluctant to give out the slightest bit of information Justine agrees to perform her set for Lillian and gradually, song by song, Nicola’s story, and Justine’s, is revealed. For her part Lillian is forced to confront the fact that her own behaviour may have pushed her daughter away and into the arms of a seducer.

The attractions of such a person, the charm, the lavish presents, and then the drugs and coercion and degradation are quite quickly presented, with strong emotion by Sara Vickruck, about the middle of the play

We never quite get a clear picture of Nicola, She inhabits the empty space a missing person leaves, but we do discover her hopes and dreams and understand how she fell for false promises, though she never quite comes into focus as a person. The slime-ball pimp charming, Brian, is even more elusive. This is a pity in a show presumably intended for young men as well as young women and their parents.

The two on stage are very much in focus. Sara Vickruck has enormous stage presence and can blast a song like a Valkyrie. In an aggressive performance she found many ways to deliver rage, anger, bitterness, longing, impishness even. Here she was helped by Steve Charles’s excellent compositions. For once dialogue extolling a song as a hit is backed up. These songs all pack a punch and the only dud among them is intentionally awful. (It is perhaps harder to write a bad song than a good one).

Justine’s story, like Lillian’s, is more complicated and shadowy than it first seems. Under Lillian’s pressure, fragments of Justine’s life come to light as she reveals Nicola’s. Joining the dots we find another woman with secrets not to be told. Sara Vickruck expresses this well but a dash more of her musical versatility in her acting might help explore Justine’s changing awareness and develop her complexity.

With few lines of text to express all the changes of thought and emotion which pass through Lillian as she listens to her daughter’s lyrics, Deb Pickman’s responses were layered and eloquent. The hectoring, self-centred mother she displays to Justine was completely merged with Lillian’s essential heart and Lillian’s own self-realization went hand in hand with her discovery of her daughter’s journey.

Drew Facey’s set and costumes clearly show both the dingy reality of Justine’s present existence in the brick wall of a small, bare club and the searches and journeys of the story in the abstract map silhouetted against it. Lighting by Itai Erdal like all good lighting, was unobtrusive until its dramatic flare at the end.

One cavil. From where I was sitting it was impossible to see both Vickruck and Pickman at once while Vickruck was singing, so the force of the lyrics on either one or the other was lost.

There is plenty in this play with music to discuss, whether as a drama or an exposition on sex-trafficking. Well done Shameless Hussy.

© 2015 Elizabeth Paterson