Sadie Frost, Carl Barat
As the first part of Love & Madnesss Desire Destruction season at Riverside Studios, Sam Shepards 1983 play certainly fits the bill in its visceral account of doomed love.
Unfortunately Neil Sheppecks miscast production is unable to deliver the intensity of this mythic contemporary Western and never really catches fire.
Set in a seedy hotel on the edge of the Mojave Desert, Fool for Love depicts the tempestuous onoff relationship between half-siblings May and Eddie.
Rodeo stuntman Eddie has driven 2480 miles to take May back to Wyoming, but the (unseen) girl he has just abandoned has pursued him with vengeful fury and she is waiting for her new gardener boyfriend Martin to take her to the movies. While the hallucinatory figure of their father looks on, the transgressions of the past continue to haunt the present generation.
The ill-destined forbidden love of the protagonists is reminiscent of Greek tragedy, with Shepard updating it to a trailer-trash no mans land with colloquial lyricism. However, here there is not enough feeling of claustrophobic tension inside Annette Sumptions neon-lit motel room, where the fighting lovers may bounce off the flimsy walls but there is little sense of gut-wrenching conflict. The more stylized almost dreamlike reminiscences of the early days of their relationship work better but overall the passion is lukewarm and the drama half-baked.
The celebrity casting of Sadie Frost and Carl Bart has to take most of the blame. They deserve credit for taking on roles which would challenge even top British actors but their lack of stage experience really exposes their shortcomings here. Its not their slightly dodgy American accents that is the problem but their inability to express the physicality of dangerous sexiness. And without this chemistry between them the play cannot deliver its below-the-belt punch.
While Frost captures the erratic mood changes of May and suggests an underlying insecurity, she does not convey the raw emotions of a desperate woman who is fighting against a fatal attraction. Ex-Libertine Bart never convinces as a potentially violent Marlboro man wielding a rifle and lasso, and seems far too laid back for someone who has travelled so far to reclaim his love, though he warms up a bit later on.
The two supporting roles are well played, with Gerard McDermotts Stetson-wearing Old Man vainly trying to justify his devastating betrayals in between swigs of Jack Daniels, while Sheppeck brings some much-needed comic relief as the straightforwardly decent, mild-mannered Martin who has become inadvertently embroiled in an elemental struggle which is way beyond his understanding.
Read the musicOMH review of Love and Madness’s Richard III, also starring Sadie Frost.