As Dr Dan asserts in the pages of a Sugar magazine from 1995, “you need to discover what flirting means to YOU”. For Rachel, it means doing whatever it takes to get over her ex-husband.
Recently single, following the failure of an IVF treatment, Rachel returns to her childhood home and finds solace in the glossy pages of the dated ‘Tween’ magazine: it may have been written for 15-year-olds in 1995, but it’s the only guidance she has. Both a love letter to the support such magazines gave, and a good-bye to the antiquated forms of thinking they perpetuated, Lovefool is smart, funny, and unabashedly real.
Written and performed by Rachel E. Thorn, and directed by Claire Dean, Lovefool explores how these magazines have shaped how many of us still view the world. How their saccharine pieces of advice are still being heeded, twenty years later, and the irony this represents: why are adults listening to advice for teenagers?
More than anything, Lovefool challenges this postmodern view of love drip-fed to us through magazines and movies. Rachel acknowledges that she desperately wants to be “a Bridgette or a Carrie”, but can’t fully articulate why – only that she feels she SHOULD want it. The 90s pop songs littered throughout only push this further – she’ll tell you what she wants, what she really, really wants: a view of love that isn’t based on trashy 90s girl-group singles.
The play shines when Rachel pulls back the curtain, and reframes tired topics in a new light. When she compares the inequality of the IVF methods they pursued (her painful laparoscopy and dye test, versus her husband’s “room full of free porn”), or when she gets candid on her misunderstandings of sex (“apparently the clitoris feels like a ball-bearing??”): Rachel’s charisma is her biggest asset, and Lovefool is at its best when it just lets her vent to us.
Unfortunately, Lovefool suffers heavily from poor pacing, with the show so centred around the props (namely the dolls representing her friends and family), a large chunk of the play is dedicated to watching Rachel commute between the prop boxes on either side of the stage. Any momentum built up by her punny and insightful monologues are lost by this unnecessary shuttling. On the other hand, some of the funnier moments are lost in a flurry of exposition – we’re given space to think exactly when we don’t need it, and some of the best lines are lost as a result.
Still, Lovefool is a piece of optimist fun – it’s Rachel saying “thanks for the help Sugar, but I’m going to do it my way from here on out”. As she pokes fun at the silliness of some of the features (“Dear Tony, what is a 69?”), she also pays reverence to how important they were to her during her formative years – for those wanting to giggle with nostalgia, Lovefool is a safe bet.
Lovefool is on until Thursday 1st October. For more information visit The Bread and Roses website.