mon 20/05/2024

Fool for Love, Found111 | reviews, news & interviews

Fool for Love, Found111

Fool for Love, Found111

Sam Shepard's incest play makes a fine swansong for a pop-up venue

It's hot in here: Adam Rothenberg as Eddie and Lydia Wilson as Mayphoto: Marc Brenner

Who is the fool in Sam Shepard’s 1983 chamber play Fool for Love? Is it Eddie, the rodeo stuntman who repeatedly cheats on his girl? Is it May, the girl who keeps taking him back? Or is it the Old Man, whose philosophy of rolling-stone fatherhood fails to take account of the damaged lives?

You emerge from Simon Evans’ production, his third and last at the atmospheric West End pop-up Found111, wondering whether Shepard might not be taking the audience for fools too. So you thought love was simple, he mocks. You thought love was a wholesome thing that sets people straight. Well, get this.

The playwright has made a career of chipping away at the version of the American Dream that wears spurs and a dusty Stetson, with families that are not happy ones. And although Shepard’s work hasn’t the cult status in Britain that it has in the US, interest is growing. Another Shepard chamber piece, Buried Child, opens at Trafalgar Studios later this month.Adam Rothenberg as Eddie and Joe McGann as Old ManAt the outset of Fool for Love, the audience is divided between those who know (perhaps from having seen the film) and those who don’t know that on-off lovers Eddie and May are half-siblings. The pair didn’t meet till their teens, and since then they haven’t been able to keep apart – or stay together. The play opens on one of Eddie’s attempts at reconciliation, May swinging violently between rejection and lust, commands to go and wheedling pleas to stay. Throughout, slumped in a corner, hat over one eye, invisible to the rest of the cast but present as a voice in their heads, is Joe McGann’s Old Man, absentee father of Eddie and May.

Adam Rothenberg (pictured above with McGann) and Lydia Wilson (who co-starred with Rothenberg in period crime series Ripper Street) convince as a couple who can’t keep their hands off one another. He plays Eddie as a bit of a lunk, a man who truly believes he can win a woman over by showing off his cattle-roping skills, even when that means lassoeing a motel bedpost. Wilson attracts the greater sympathy as a fragile young woman trying hard to put her life back on track. She has taken a job as a cook, not touched a drop for months and just started dating Mr Normal, Martin (Luke Neal), whose misfortune is to turn up at the motel to take May out on an innocent date. His innocence doesn’t last the night.

Ultimately, the play is a fierce indictment of feckless parenting

Evans’ direction is strong on physicality, playing games with expectation. Eddie’s aggressive questioning of his rival is delivered, bizarrely, from the floor where he lies on his back swigging tequila while Martin, a mild-mannered giant of a man, towers above him. The direction is less strong when the characters monologue in turn – these long anecdotes ought to be mesmerising but too often on opening night loss of concentration marred the flow. The Nevada accents, on the other hand, are consistently good.

Ben Stones’ design succeeds against the odds in turning a top floor of the old St Martin’s School of Art building into a low-rent motel bedroom. Yet beyond the iron bed and a door made for slamming is a seemingly borderless grubby space that could be the Mojave desert. Too bad that a load-bearing pillar gives rise to some restricted views of the actors, but it only briefly mars the experience.

At barely 60 minutes from start to finish, Fool for Love covers a lot of rocky ground and gets its hands properly dirty. It’s also cruelly funny. When the traumatised Martin ventures to ask, “Is she really your half-sister…which half?” Eddie answers, smart as a whip: “Top half”. Ultimately, though, the play is a fierce indictment of feckless parenting, and the extent to which the mythologising of maleness lets the culprits off the hook.

Shepard chips away at the version of the American Dream that wears spurs and a dusty Stetson


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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