One of the reasons we go to the theatre is to see creatives try new ways of doing things; to witness innovation through experimentation. Setting Sam Shepard’s Fool for Love, then, in a non-theatrical space that provided its own visual and acoustic limitations was a risk worth taking. Ben Stones’ design of a stage-less environmental performance space encompassing both actors and audience certainly hints towards a production with all the makings of innovation and experimentation.
A claustrophobic, low-ceilinged thrust area plays host to most of the intense action of the play, but a lesser-used area partly obscured by a pillar and stretching far back seemingly beyond the boundaries of the room itself gives the scenes a disorientating infinity of depth. Space and location are certainly important themes in Shepard’s play, and the production team do well to capitalise on this for dramatic effect.
In a similar fashion, the minimalist set is created with the idea of subliminal depth in mind. Doors and the borders they create when closed have great significance in this text focusing on such complex and limit-transcending relationships. It is interesting that nearly as much action in the play happens off-stage as on: characters can access areas we can’t, and are able to make their presence known without being seen, testing and questioning the purpose of a stage and a performance space in theatre.
The play itself forms a thought-provoking example of a story unfolding through traditional meta-storytelling; characters’ veracity and motivation are constantly questioned, and Shepard’s intellectual acuity as a writer comes to the fore in the play’s clever mirroring and cyclical structure. Concise, purposeful and witty dialogue engenders developed and interesting characters, who serve a purpose and have a place within the narrative.
Simon Evans’ shrewd direction matches Shepard’s perspicacious script; moments of eloquent and clever symbolism work in tandem with props, lighting and sound design to give new, deeper meanings to characters and interpersonal dynamics.
But the stand-out performances are what make Fool for Love really worth the watch. All four cast members vividly portray their characters, giving rise to incredibly visceral and intense scenes throughout the relatively short play. Adam Rothenberg and Lydia Wilson, in particular, give strong performances as the protagonists Eddie and May, strikingly and stirringly taking us through their characters’ descent into a jealousy-fuelled revelatory rampage.
Overall, then, an impressive production – the result of a harmonious relationship and accord between text, cast and production.
Fool for Love is playing Found111 until December 17.
Photo: Marc Brenner