FORCING HILL-BILLY VALUES under the loupe and lasso of cowboy energy, Sam Shepard’s 1980s play, Fool for Love offers a raging and meaty reflection on broken love in a grubby world of lies, taboos and indiscretions. Director Janice Honeyman takes the project by its heart, and Kate Liquorish opposite Langley Kirkwood ramp up what a good performance could mean, considerably. This is not a gentle tale, but one that will keep you riveted.
As you enter the theatre, you’re confronted with a steeply raked auditorium and a set that interestingly evokes that of Reza de Wet’s African Gothic, recently staged in this city. It’s a curious resonance because there are echoes of taboo between the two stories, too. But the use of transparency in this architectural set lends clever insight into the give and take between a stage set and reality. At no point are you under the illusion that this is pretending to be ‘real’ – instead, you get searing insight into the ins and outs of the scenario, as you do with the lives of the characters in this story.
Liquorish was great in Crepuscule, but she uses this work as a vehicle to take her interpretative energy to a richer, deeper capacity — something you might not have deemed possible. Her gritty, sophisticated and guttural interpretation of “May” is rigorous and unrelenting; her emotions are difficult and harsh and her commitment to a depressive state or insanity is just beneath the skin.
While you might recognise Kirkwood from television credits and his presence in films rather than stage appearances, he makes a very welcome comeback after a 19 year hiatus, according to the programme, but more than that, interprets “Eddie” with a fierceness that is a strong and credible corollary to May.
The narrative is replete with a ghostly father – played by Zane Meas, and while the crackly voice of the old, flawed chap, as he interjects in conversations and makes his presence felt is fine, his accent slips from time to time. It’s a flaw that you’re able to forgive with alacrity because of the structure and the pace of the writing itself. Similarly, you are able to overlook how the spotlight designed to follow him as he interjects into the lives of those present, is inconsistent.
Martin, the man who comes to take May on a date, is beautifully cast. Paka Zwedala lends just the level of male vulnerability and discomfort that this play requires, enabling the ensemble to sing with hick distortions, as it is meant to. His character offers a throwback to so many fragile male characters in work by American playwrights such as Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams, for instance.
You will leave this theatre haunted by a strange tale of incest and philandering, love and cows in a field, suicide and burning property, but in a haze of privilege: you don’t get to see theatre of this quality every day.
- Fool for Love is written by Sam Shepard and directed by Janice Honeyman. Performed by Langley Kirkwood, Kate Liquorish, Zane Meas and Paka Zwedala, it features design by Mannie Manim (lighting), Stan Knight (set), Margo Snoyman (costumes) and is stage managed by Lebeisa Molapo. It performs at the Mannie Manim theatre, Market Theatre complex in Newtown, Johannesburg until September 9.