“Welcome to my heart,” Tara Rankine greets you as you arrive at The Space for her one-woman cabaret show Love Is A Work In Progress. At first, it’s a very chilled environment; cookies are given out, love songs are played, Rankine prances about in a fluffy dressing gown, but it doesn’t last long. If audience participation isn’t your thing, I suggest you run very fast in the opposite direction.
However, even if audience participation isn’t your favourite thing in the world, it’s thrown at you so hard that after a while you just embrace it. Mind you, that’s easy to say as the person who didn’t have to don a giant inflatable penis and eat a cream pie (very literally) from between Rankine’s legs. The first half of Love Is A Work In Progress isn’t about love in the traditional, romantic sense. Instead, it’s about hot, awkward and eventful sex, as Rankine’s younger self has to discover that when it comes to love, you have options beyond “love of your life love or whore love.” For a while, it’s worryingly phallocentric and more cringe-worthy than it is funny, but as the metaphors become subtler (rummaging in “Tara’s Box”), things get better and better.
By the time you’ve settled in for an uncomfortable but increasingly amusing ride, the show suddenly changes direction. It’s perhaps not a total shock that the show veers towards a profound message about friendship and self-love, but unlike most one-woman shows I’ve seen this year, and there have been a fair few, Love Is A Work In Progress features a much darker grief narrative that acts as the character’s moment of enlightenment. Despite Rankine’s warning that things were about to take a more sinister turn, the second half of the show gets unexpectedly emotional.
It is, as mentioned, a cabaret performance, for which musician Olivia Rafferty accompanies Rankine. While there is something slightly awkward about some of Maddie Thiele’s lyrics, Rankine has a beautiful voice which sings comedy as well as it does the ballads.
The show is rounded off with a surprisingly effective self-care exercise, when everybody has fully committed to the participation part of the show. In the end, we feel like we’ve been through something together. Love Is A Work In Progress is a bit of a weird one, but I didn’t see a single unhappy face in the crowd as we left the theatre, even if there were a few uncomfortable ones.
‘Love Is A Work In Progress’ is playing at The Space until 6 October. For more information and tickets, click here.