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Review: Fool for Love at Limelight on Oxford

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

By Rosie Niven

Vicious and passionate, Sam Shepard’s classic Fool For Love tells the story of May and Eddie, former lovers who meet again at an old motel in the middle of the Mojave Desert. When Eddie reappears, he threatens to drag May back to the life she has spent so long running away from, and what unfolds is a tumultuous interaction that controls most of the play’s narrative.

Fool For Love is renowned for its exploration of obsessive passion, with Shepard’s characters painted as caged animals hurling themselves against the walls and fighting to escape, all the while running back into each other’s arms for another fervent kiss. It is this uncontrollable desire that drives Eddie and May throughout the play, resulting in not only a psychologically destructive relationship, but also an illegal one – Eddie and May share the same father, and have unknowingly committed incest.

Lachlan Ruffy’s Eddie and Kate Betcher’s May have all the makings of the right characters for this complicated love story, but the two seem to deliver many of their lines hesitantly, as if bringing their personal judgement of this relationship to the forefront. However, both actors delivered beautifully vulnerable performances when speaking about their own stories, in particular when Eddie and May tell May’s date Martin (Joel Horwood) about their family history. These moments of vulnerability elevate the play and remind us of how heart-breaking Shepard’s plays can truly be. Joel Horwood’s Martin brought much-needed comic relief to the most uncomfortable scenes, making Shepard’s confronting content easier for the audience to process. Neil McLeod’s Old Man was delivered with vivacious energy, however, for me, many of the lines were lost in his character’s gravelly mumble.

The explosive emotions throughout this play are difficult to articulate – even Eddie struggles to explain the energy in the room, constantly coming back to the ‘tension’. While the tension between the lovers is clear, the chemistry is often lacking and as such, the audience is not always taken on the journey of this love story with the characters. When Eddie runs his fingers through May’s hair early in the play, his hands barely touch her scalp, and when the two share a kiss the passion that Fool For Love is known for completely disappears.

Design left much to be desired – the humble wooden set utilized the incredibly small space particularly well, but the lighting and sound seemed unrealistic and jarring in many scenes. Car headlights were signified with a single white spot that didn’t fit the naturalistic design of the rest of the scene, and sound effects were haphazardly layered in a way that couldn’t match the cacophony from the actors.

Patina Productions presents Fool For Love has taken an artistic classic and stripped it back to its bare minimum, from the characterization to the design. For me, this light-handed approach didn’t sing in the way that this script can. While the production had a lot of successes, the show would have benefited from the actors showing less restraint, and the creative design showing more.

Playing until Jan 12th, tickets are available here

Photography by Clare Hawley

All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.


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