DIANE DE BEER
FOOL FOR LOVE
PLAYWRIGHT: Sam Shepard
DIRECTOR: Janice Honeyman
CAST: Kate Liquorish, Langley Kirkwood, Zane Meas, Paka Zwedala
SET DESIGNER: Stan Knight
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Mannie Manim
COSTUME DESIGNER: Margo Snyman
VENUE: Mannie Manim Theatre at the Market
DATES: Until 9 September
With his untimely death last year, it’s been a welcome return to our stages for playwright Sam Shepard with this second production, following Sylvaine Strike’s glorious Curse of the Starving Class at the US Woordfees earlier.
This one features quite a few returns, with Honeyman back at The Market directing after an absence of many years and actors Kirkwood and Meas performing on The Market stage again in quite a while. And they make it work – magnificently.
On no level is this an easy encounter. Even for the two main protagonists, Kirkwood and Liquorish, while these are meaty roles and their performances mesmerising, it’s a tough tale to navigate night after night. Yet, one can hardly blink, so compelling is Shepard’s heart-wrenching story. It deals with failed love yet familial bonds so potent they’re unbreakable, even if they tear the emotions of the two people at the centre to shreds.
It is what makes this so watchable. May (Liquorish) is unexpectedly surprised by a visitor, her old beau Eddie (Kirkwood) in a desolate hotel room somewhere on the edge of life. And what becomes clear lightning fast is that these two lost souls share a history. This is not the first time round for these lovers, even if May declares she has moved on and is waiting for someone to call. Eddie, it turns out, is repeating old family patterns with a woman somewhere in the background hot on his trail.
On the periphery, only intruding on occasion, is a character referred to as Old Man (Meas), who steps in and out of our consciousness, commenting on the tragedy that is seemingly playing itself out. He doesn’t fully participate in their lives yet seems desperately to be seeking absolution.
Hovering in the room, is the knowledge of the arrival of someone that seems to determine the erratic mood swings between May and Eddie. Theirs is no idle chat. It’s explosive and deals with a history that is rough to unravel as they turn towards and from one another with alarming alacrity. Star-crossed lovers perhaps, or is there more to what seems to be a battle between two people who cannot live with – or without – each other?
Honeyman’s probing staging is enhanced by cohorts Knight, whose set contributes to the bleakness and the claustrophobic atmosphere and Manim’s lighting which adds yet another dimension to the upheaval in the room.
More than anything though, it lies in the text and the performances – relentless – between especially Kirkwood and Liquorish – as they wear each other down in their coming together for what seems yet another showdown.
Denial runs through this family’s dealings and determines every move they make as they embrace scarily tight before sharply turning away and then suddenly falling to the floor in a rough tumble of harsh words scratching at old wounds.
It is their nuanced performances as they try to still the storm that draws you into the room with no way out. These are two lost souls trying to find solace which they both know is not available in this encounter and yet, they can’t walk away. It’s about going back and finding a life with few options and if there were any to begin with, those are long gone.
Both May and Eddie have been here before and know exactly how their emotional rollercoaster will land while on the side, Old Man (Meas making his mark with a few pivotal scenes), is glaring at the children he declares he can’t recognise. This isn’t his legacy, nothing is familiar.
But this is tour de force Sam Shepard territory – a desolate, bleak landscape, both physically and psychologically, a father figure dominating any dalliance, and two people embroiled in an emotional dance that has no beginning or end.
And then the outsider steps in as a catalyst, with Zedwala giving a fine performance as the baffled prospective suitor who is kept hanging as everyone leaves.
Once again, no one is left standing as this brilliant team (on and off stage) persists.