"Toby described how he wanted the venue to enable the audience to feel like they’re hiding in the shadows - a silent observer looking in."Orla Hill with permission for Varsity

My favourite thing about dystopian writing is its ability to be eerily feasible: a society dark and unnerving, yet not a far stretch from the current climate. It always amazes me how a story, so pressingly relevant to our lives, can be set in a world entirely not our own. When you’re working with only the limits of your imagination and a stage, why stick to reality? After talking to the creators behind Love Corporation, writer/director Toby Collins and producer Amelia Mitchell, it seems that it’s this uncanny balance between a disturbing fiction and horrifying reality that their production strives to achieve.

Toby has had Love Corporation in the works nearly three years now. Only after winning the CUADC’s playwriting competition did the means and incentive to get it into a theatre finally fall into place. Confirming that his play was truly stage-worthy, the process of pitching, rehearsals, and eventually performance quickly began. With its premiere in November finally drawing closer, Toby shared with me the unnerving feeling that comes with hearing his beloved writing out loud. For the writer, the step from words on a page to being acted in a theatre suddenly exposed the disparity between what is effective on the page, and what works in performance.

“Corpus is also far more forgiving to new or experimental writing”

With the play’s dystopian vision subtly tackling institutionalised corruption with subtlety, Toby described the play as abstract, inherently political; partly inspired by the war and terror of the early 2000s, its universal messages seem to depict - or even predict - an extreme existence. A classically shady institution, the “Love Corporation” maintains control over a secret state police who “keep order”; normalised and hidden with the fabric of society, it escapes questioning - even when bombs go off every night and people mysteriously disappear. But who is pulling the strings from within the shadows?

The play interrogates this situation through the eyes of three very different characters. Cohen, ex-military, is indiscriminately searching for any work he can get - as long as he doesn’t think about it too much. Jorge, a disillusioned revolutionary, has had his eyes opened to the regime, while Dr Jett, Cohen’s ex-partner, has seen the inside of the corporation for far too long. Together, they navigate this dystopian landscape which feels a little too close to home.

Keeping the set fairly minimal, aside from some creative experimentation in costume and lighting choices, the majority of the play is set in the offices of the ‘Love Corporation’. Possibly surprisingly, Toby specifically pitched the show for the Corpus Playroom; with the audience on the same level as the actors, it lends itself to the idea of an office, absent of the stark separation between the two groups enforced by the ADC mainstage. With the aim of making the show more intimate, as if the actors can talk directly with the audience, Toby described how he wanted the venue to enable the audience to feel like they’re hiding in the shadows - a silent observer looking in. The perfect theatre for such a show, Corpus is also far more forgiving to new or experimental writing. While the layout can be challenging, its intimacy - and tendency to cushion any slow or clunky parts - enables the theatre to appear less daunting than the ADC.

“There’s truly something uniquely special about putting new writing on stage”

Love Corporation has provided both Toby and Amelia the chance to take on new roles: while Toby ventures into the world of directing, Amelia is stepping into a producer’s shoes for the first time. Having been involved in the tech side of theatre for a while, the director’s chair felt like a whole new world for Toby; despite the responsibility initially seeming slightly daunting, he quickly realised how collaborative the role can be. He expressed his gratitude that the crew was so friendly, enthusiastic and full of ideas, bringing their own personal styles to the table while being happy to work with one another. As Toby sees it, his job is essentially a conversation between director and actor. Previously an actor herself, Amelia described how interesting producing for the first time has been in revealing all the sides of a production - as well giving her a say in far more decisions. Despite a slightly horrific admin side, Amelia has risen to the challenge, finding her passion for producing within the engaging discussions around auditions, casting, set and staging.


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Describing how the script’s potential immediately jumped out at her, Amelia’s enthusiasm, which emanated from the show’s creatives, reminded me that there’s truly something uniquely special about putting new writing on stage. With such an invested crew, it seems to me that we’re on track for a real treat with this production; so, for once, you can actually look forward to being transported to a dystopia as you experience the debut of Toby Collins production Love Corporation.

Love Corporation will run at the Corpus Playroom from 7th - 11th November at 7pm.