Pros: An exceptional cast that convincingly inhabit Shepard’s enigmatic characters.
Cons: I won’t mourn the loss of this found space as I couldn’t always find a decent line of sight.
Sam Shepard’s play perfectly balances knowledge and mystery. It reveals enough about the characters’ lives to contextualise the real-time motel scene that we witness, but conceals enough about the people, places and past beyond the walls of the room such that uncertainty prevails. This production perfectly captures the dramatic tension of Shepard’s dialogue, with a first-class cast that deliver every line in this relatively compact play with the reverence it deserves.
Our female lead May (played by Lydia Wilson) is visited by ex-lover Eddie (Adam Rothenberg) on the very night that she has a date with another man. Unfortunately for the rather unsuspecting date Martin (Luke Neal), Eddie wants his girl back and subverts their date before it has even begun, with a threatening tale from the past that compels Martin and audience alike. Adam Rothenberg is the perfect lothario, his sultry Southern accent and arrogant looks taunting May with their equal sexiness and transparency.
Lydia Wilson is similarly compelling in look and word, moving across the stage with a wild and sometimes hysterical urgency, so clearly rattled by the arrival of her lover. Together their movements are sensual and violent, and I regretted the limitations that the space imposes on the direction, which is smart and economical. Plenty of movement and loud door-slamming give energy to a play heavily reliant upon storytelling. It never feels static, and the door-slamming demands the audience’s attention.
The whole cast nail Shepard’s deadpan humour. Martin’s arrival on the scene was a welcome interruption to the romantic quarrel, and Luke Neal is as watchable as his more aggressive male counterpart. Every cast member is genuinely funny, timing each sardonic line perfectly. It would be easy to misfire on such subtle humour but all the characters are so fully fleshed, each interaction so physical and meticulous, that the dark wit prevails. A fourth presence onstage, a father figure (Joe McGann), provides further comedy in his position as observer and commentator to the scene. McGann’s performance is threatening and funny in equal measure, colouring the atmosphere with the sinister tone it needs.
My only bugbear about the production is the space, which I don’t think offers a fair line of sight to all audience members – an inevitability in a space not designed for theatre. The set design is effective, and the lighting design enjoyable eerie. I didn’t appreciate the gravel underfoot in the audience, but that’s simply a matter of taste.
My first experience of Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love was incredibly positive, and I would love to see the play performed in another space. What really makes this production shine is the stellar cast who, with the support of a great director, are utterly convincing. Get your tickets before this found venue is lost forever.
Director: Simon Evans
Author: Sam Shepard
Producer: Emily Dobbs Productions
Designer: Ben Stone
Lighting Designer: Elliot Griggs
Playing Until: 17 December 2016
Box Office: 020 7478 0100
Booking Link: http://found111.co.uk