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Object Love
The Vaults
31st January 2015

★★★☆☆

Publicity photograph for Object Love

Photography provided by the VAULT Festival

One of my favourite things about London is that there's always someone weirder than you. Seriously - take a look at the person opposite on the tube - yeah, weirder. Tick. This is the city where you can wear whatever you damn well feel like, do whatever you want (law-permitting) and be with whoever you want to be. We're a city full of locals and immigrants, people who'll never leave, those who are just passing through - it's a real melting pot of diversity. It takes an awful lot of shock, or even to just suggest something remotely new. With so many people here, chances are most of us have been there, done that and sold the t-shirt to a tourist at a 200% markup.

Following their explosive drama SPARK, Dissolve Theatre have come back to the Vaults with Object Love, a show about objectum-sexuality. Plays about sexual orientation are plentiful, but I confess this is the first time I've seen a production about those who are attracted to objects instead of or as well as people. You have to admire director and playwright Chloe Mashiter for finding something to write about that hasn't already been done to death.

So, elephant in the room: what is OS? Is it a real condition? Well, you may vaguely recall documentary The Woman Who Married the Eiffel Tower, or at least the fact that it was screened on television at some point in the Noughties, but many of you may not really know much about OS. Which is fine, because Mashiter's script dedicates a lot of its purpose to educating and informing. It's a noble goal, and you do leave questioning your own attitudes towards this orientation, so from that angle, Mashiter has certainly excelled. However, the main focus of theatre has to be on entertainment rather than education, and it does seem at times that Mashiter doesn't quite get the difficult balance right.

Bridget (Cindy Jane Armbruster), Isaac (Harki Bhambra) and Ursula (Michaela Brooks) are here to talk about their OS orientation and indeed, their relationships. Mashiter attempts to make them as different as possible, with all three attracted to different types of objects, Ursula in multiple relationships with objects, Isaac dating both an object and a human, and Bridget more the monogamous type. As they explain how others have reacted to them, as they talk about their past and current lovers - we do see vulnerability and real emotions, but perhaps the frustration doesn't come across as strongly as it should be. Or maybe the OS community are generally a chilled bunch, and don't think society's treatment of them warrants getting angry.

When a fire alarm cut into the show only two minutes in, I thought it was deliberate, with the three speakers having their moment interrupted by unseen off-stage protesters. As the piercing siren continued, it become rapidly apparent this was just an unfortunate incident. We hear how the characters struggle to gain acceptance from their friends and family - Bridget still isn't talking to her mother - but Object Love doesn't focus on other peoples' reactions, it's about the OS community and their feelings. Yes, the play has love in the title, but I still found this a little surprising.

The piece can feel overlong and there's too much emphasis on informing rather than feeling, but there are some wonderful touches from Mashiter. As the three characters spend time with their lovers, with three very private moments taking place simultaneously, there's a beautiful tenderness on display. Armbruster taking off her shoes to be closer to her partner is particularly poignant - for all the three characters talk and talk, it's these silent gestures which more effectively convey the intensity of what they believe.

Object Love is certainly thought-provoking and can't be dismissed as 'just another piece of theatre'. It's a bold new piece of writing with something to capture the attention of even the most jaded theatregoers, even if it might not, ultimately, do more than make you contemplate.

Object Love opened on 28th January and runs until 1st February 2015 at The Vaults, as part of the VAULT Festival.

Nearest tube station: Waterloo (Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee)



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