While the script keeps its attention on Eve and Ashish, Darwent opens the conversation to issues around being trans, racism within the LGBTQ community, loneliness and the struggles that many face with accepting who they are. This makes Eve and Ashish more well- rounded and fleshed out and they become something greater than their current circumstances. This is supported by Kitt Forbes' direction where the characters express themselves through tender body language and gentle touches of physical contact.
Having written the role of Eve with themselves in mind, Darwent delivers a natural and instinctive portrayal of the sex worker. Even with her neutral tone throughout, Darwent ensures their line delivery accurately conveys Eve's thoughts and feelings, and it is clear when she is angry, frustrated or happy. It is a restrained performance but one that is true to the character. Tushar Bist is well cast as Ashish, Eve's sensitive and thoughtful best friend and client, but there are moments where a bigger emotional response is required, if for no other reason but to be a contrasting energy to Eve, and to emphasise the power dynamics between them. Quinn Langsam-Jones as Tress, Eve's housemate, provides the reality check that Eve is in constant need of, and her take-no-bullshit attitude brings some harsh but humourous interactions with Eve.
There are a few instances where the writing compromises the important character development it has established. At one point Ashish and Eve are discussing their past relationships and partners, but if they have been friends for ten years, and with Eve stating that Ashish is her second closest friend, shouldn't they already know this? It's a small flaw but it's an integral element of the narrative. Similarly, Eve's decision at the end of the show - which is a significant one - is surprising but confusing given that it involves someone who does not appear in the production.
There's a sense of being transported to another time and place in Love By The Hour, with the play set entirely in Eve's boudoir, the music that is played and the clothing that is worn. This is only challenged when mobile phones are briefly used and grindr is mentioned. It also alludes to the characters being in their own cocoon, where the outside world and all its distractions are shut off and they can focus on each other. It's a bittersweet story on the boundaries of sex and intimacy, one which doesn't give any answers but offers plenty to consider.
Click here for my interview with Caleb Darwent.
Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: until 25 January | Mon, Wed - Thurs, Sat 7:00pm
Tickets: $35 Full | $31 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival
Image Credit: Teddy Darling