RIVER knows how to make the perfect Vegemite toast, and when she’s not selling her aluminium foil art outside Woolies she writes Google poetry—and attends strangers’ funerals.
The endearing, complex character features in an eponymous on-stage show that represents Claire Lovering’s first foray into writing.
The former Fremantle actor has enjoyed stunning success since graduating from the WA Academy of Performing Arts, the sheen of academic life still fresh when she made her stage debut in Tim Winton’s Rising Water, opposite John Howard.
Her performance as Elaine Robinson, stage daughter to Jerry Hall’s Mrs Robinson in The Graduate, earned critical acclaim from fussy Melbourne theatre goers.
“As Elaine, [she] found a diamond-hard truth inside her insubstantial character,” The Australian’s reviewer wrote.
River started as a 10-minute monologue at an actors’ version of open mic. The artistic director was so impressed Lovering was asked to flesh it into a full show.
“I wrote it in two weeks,” she says. “It just poured out of me.”
The character—Lovering describes her as “quite ordinary”—was inspired by the isolation and loneliness she’d felt after moving to Sydney four years ago.
In the process, and with the help of dramaturge (research and development adviser) Sarah Giles, the show transformed from comedy to something deeper: “It’s bittersweet and poignant now,” Lovering says.
An attractive young blonde, Lovering had her long tresses slashed to a bob for the show, and she headed to K-Mart for a wardrobe a young woman struggling with low-income suburbia might wear.
“Sneakers and cargo shorts and scrunchies…I try to look as invisible as possible.”
Lovering set herself a couple of hurdles: her character eats scones, sandwiches, crisps and a packet of biscuits over the play’s duration and that can take its toll on what is normally a fit and supple body when consumed night after night.
She also had to learn to play xylophone: “I don’t know why, but I thought it would be fun,” she says. “Luckily for me, dad works for Musica Viva and had connections.”
River is part of the Blue Room Theatre’s Summer Nights of the Fringe Festival, and is on January 27–31.
by JENNY D’ANGER