Monday February 26, 2024
A FOOL IN LOVE
Review

A FOOL IN LOVE

By Diana Simmonds
February 11 2024

A FOOL IN LOVE, Sydney Theatre Company at Wharf 1, 10 February-17 March 2024. Photography by Daniel Boud: above - Melissa Kahraman, Aaron Tsindos, Contessa Treffone; below Arkia Ashraf, Aaron Tsindos, Alfie Gledhill; below again: Contessa Treffone, Megan Wilding

After her success for STC with Banging Denmark in 2019 (stagenoise gave it four stars), Van Badham had an experience shared by few playwrights nowadays: she was immediately asked by STC to write another.

This is amazing, yet page 14 of the program reveals that, on the back of Banging Denmark, Badham is now “an expert in creating romantic comedies that keep the form fresh…” More than that, she will be leading a workshop, open to all, on March 7 titled “How to Write a Rom-Com”. It offers “your chance to learn from one of the best…” Hoo-wee.

This invitation is surreal at best and yet another way to painfully endure two hours at worst, after the semi-endless 2.5 hours, including interval, of A Fool In Love.

The play is allegedly an adaptation of star of the Spanish Golden Age Lope de Vega’s 1613 comedy The Lady Boba: a Woman of Little Sense. However, there is a lot more to adaptation than discarding approximately a third of the text and replacing it with “fuck”, “fucking” or “fucked”. And it’s not about being a wowser when it comes to cussing, more that this oversupply of repetition is tooth-achingly dull after the first fifty occurrences.

A FOOL IN LOVE

With the aid of set designer Isabel Hudson, Badham has re-set the action in a pink terrazzo palazzo on the NSW coast. Here, tyrannical paterfamilias Otavio (Johnny Nasser) is desperate to marry off younger daughter Phynayah (Contessa Treffone) before her 30th birthday. She is a sweet simpleton (boba – “silly” en español), unlike her smart if grouchy older sister Vanessa (Melissa Kahraman).

The need for haste is the immense fortune left solely to Phynayah in his Will by Otavio’s brother … if she marries before her 30th. Otherwise, all monies go to an annual mule festival. So far, so promising, although whether the mules are feminine slip-ons or long-eared beasts of burden is not clear. Whatever, Otavio has stuffed the family business and is desperate for cash. As he lines them up, suitors come and go, motives are questionable and questioned. The basics of farce and the broadest of broad comedy are enacted.

Unfortunately, farce in theatre is – technically and performance-wise – the most difficult genre of all. It demands a director of uncommon talent and aptitude and considerable experience. In STC’s recent-ish history Richard Cottrell, (Ying Tong, inter alia) Jonathan Biggins (Noises Off), and Sarah Giles (Accidental Death of an Anarchist) come immediately to mind.

Entrusting a rough and unready work like A Fool In Love to a relative newbie such as Kenneth Moraleda is either foolish or cruel, or both. The result is constant shouting and faux rage from a cast whose happy laughter in the rehearsal room does not mean an audience will be equally amused (aside from inevitable friends, lovers, and claques).

A FOOL IN LOVE

The immensely hardworking company of Arkia Ashraf (Laurie/Mizuno), Alfie Gledhill (Pedro/Eduardo), Johnny Nasser (Otavio and also Yoga Teacher) Kahraman as Vanessa, Aaron Tsindos (Lee/Neeson) and Megan Wilding (Clare, Rufina, Open Night MC) are rarely still, or silent. They try their best and hit their character targets from time to time, but each needs to take ten deep breaths and settle.

And while doing so, watch Contessa Treffone. She understands what she’s doing and fully inhabits the role of the girl who’s been told all her life she’s stupid, yet an intelligent woman is slowly – and hilariously – revealed. There’s a lot of the Gerwig/Robbie Barbie in Phynayah, including ditzing around on one pink stiletto mule.

Benjamin Brockman lights the rosy seaside palace with his usual intelligence and style, Isabel Hudson’s dazzling costumes could hold their own in a fight for over-the-top billing with Renée Mulder’s The Importance of Being Earnest (many on display along the Wharf walkway at the moment). Composer & sound designer Michael Toisuta leaves the audience with a three-day ear-worm via the unforgettable sax intro to Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street. It’s emblematic of the production: glorious but contextually meaningless; which is quite funny, on reflection.

Four stars for Treffone, three for the cast’s huge effort. Creatives: four; one each for playwright and director. Average: 2.6. Let’s be generous: 3 stars.

 

Comments

  • AnnaSokolova

    Thank you for the review. Happy to see comments about the over-simplified language and overweight farce.
    Anna

    01:15 February 13 2024
    Reply

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