We’ve all swallowed it: the romantic illusion that love is all you need, and we’re all meant to be partnered up to some love that will last a lifetime. Most of us try for it, some of us find it, almost all of us fail to maintain it.

Love is even harder for the trio of abused battlers and addicts who make up this snappy play by Patricia Cornelius. Life for them has been hard and unkind and, as Cornelius says, it shows in their eyes and mouths and jaws. But still they cling to distorted ideas of love.

Tanya is a handsome strapping girl who dresses like a man. In gaol she meets Annie and knows immediately that she is the one for her, an effervescent busty blonde who is 19 but sometimes looks 40. Together they make a hot and tender couple, although curiously Tanya cringes from being admired or made love to.

Annie though is open-legged to all comers, including the tricks she picks up once back out in the real world, and to an addict called Lorenzo. He’s drawn to Annie’s diminutive neediness which makes him feel like man, a good man.

He’s also drawn to her street earnings. Once out of gaol, Tanya moves in as well and with Lorenzo shares the affections and proceeds of Annie.

The tempo of Cornelius’s staccato script, with its blunt dialogue and quick scenes, gets even faster now as this unlikely trio spirals out of control. We are told little of their abusive pasts -“ they are simply characters lost in the present -“ nor are we encouraged much to empathise with them and their impotent tantrums.

Competing for Annie, Lorenzo asserts his manly advantage by claiming that society says they belong together, not she and the brooding, dogged Tanya. Annie giggles that he makes her laugh, but Lorenzo eventually moves on.

Whose love is better is not really answered. All of it is wasted by people who don’t have the means, imagination or will to live their own lives let alone find real love.

Love is a powerfully written play and is tightly and truthfully directed by John Sheedy. Genevieve Hegney as Tanya and Rupert Reid as Lorenzo give great performances.

Belinda Sculley is especially accomplished as the erratic Annie, the central vacuous character on whom the others are inexplicably dependent and in love.

Love is at the Belvoir Street Downstairs Theatre until 26 November.

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