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Fool for Love

Sam Shepard
Love&Madness Ensemble
Riverside Studios
(2010)

Publicity photo

If ever there was a play for a company called Love&Madness, this Sam Shepard revival is it.

The opener of their three-play season mines those two conflicting passions through the eyes of May and Eddie, trailer trash with a history.

The company's Artistic Director Neil Sheppeck has cast two big names in the leading roles. Film star and Jude Law's ex, Sadie Frost, is the unstable May, opposite a smouldering Carl Barât, best known to date as founder of pop group The Libertines alongside Pete Doherty and front man of Dirty Pretty Things.

The casting works up to a point, as neither leading actor manages to sustain an American accent, nor are they used to performing on stage only a few feet from the audience. Where the pair do score, once they get over a flat opening, is in conveying the literally irresistible sex appeal that each character holds for the other.

Fool for Love takes place in the seediest of motel rooms and designer Annette Sumption, with great assistance from her talented lighting colleague Paul Green, conjures up just the right milieu, even if there is a constant fear that the shaky walls might not survive the hour.

In there, the returning Eddie instantly throws May's life into turmoil. The temperamental brunette can neither live with nor without this cowboy who had deserted her for a lady with more class; and his feelings are equally ambivalent.

The fireworks in the room are more than matched by those taking place outside, as Eddie's new lady wreaks revenge on him for desertion.

Sam Shepard gives what could be relatively run-of-the mill much more depth and also a vein of comedy by introducing two additional characters.

Martin, May's new beau played by director Sheppeck, is as ordinary as they come. He does not know what hit him when he meets Eddie and is then forced to listen to a seemingly far-fetched tale of illicit love.

Though Martin may not know it, the story is constantly corroborated by a ghostly father figure, played with grim humour by the pick of the actors, Gerard McDermott. This Jack Daniels-swilling oldie tells it like it is, and it is sordid.

It is good to see a small-scale revival of one of Sam Shepard's more accessible dramas, filmed by Robert Altman as much as 25 years ago with Shepard and Kim Basinger in the leads.

With the two big names, Fool for Love should bring audiences to Hammersmith and introduce them to a varied season that continues with Richard III and ends with Demi-Monde, a new play by another (differently spelt) Shepherd, Jack.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher