Review by Carmel Shortall
In Love And Other Games, writer Lisa Fulthorpe takes hold of cosy, comfortable notions of love and bludgeons them to death in front of the audience. The four plays that make up the production probe the dark recesses of modern relationships to find disappointment, neediness, jealousy, obsession and blackmail.
In Fancy Meeting You Here, Olivia Hill and James Sutherland play two old lovers who bump into each other years after they split. Perhaps it is no coincidence that Matt, a man for whom the grass is always greener, is now living so close to Zoe. As they circle each other we learn that his infidelity caused their split and Zoe’s subsequent breakdown. Now married and buying medicine for “the twins”, he seems desperate to renew his relationship with Zoe but will she succumb?
Moon on a Stick has Fiona Boylan and Christopher Tester playing two ill-suited lovers who met in Ibiza and are now arguing outside a Christmas party. He is feckless and manipulative and only wants to score some “gear” and, although angry, she is emotionally needy and eventually gives in. You know that they are doomed to repeat the same arguments for ever.
In Yoga Bitch, the mood gets darker and Olivia Hill and James Sutherland again play the warring couple: Howard is emotionally abusive and accuses Rachel of cheating. She, on the other hand, seems initially impervious to the toxic atmosphere until Howard oversteps the line.
In The Best Thing You Ever Had, the darkness takes a comedic turn as Fiona Boylan plays Sal, a ‘bunny boiler’ in the making. Christopher Tester as Nick wakes up hung-over on her floor and realises to his horror that Sal has a price for his drunken one-night stand and is prepared to do anything to achieve it.
The play is produced by Peter Thompson, secretary of the Player-Playwrights co-operative and it will come as no surprise that Lisa Fulthorpe’s writing credits include C4’s Smack the Pony. John Higgins’ direction combines unfussy and unobtrusive lighting with simple staging and makes the most of the Etcetera’s space.
The cast are excellent: Olivia Hill as Zoe is both cynical and vulnerable while James Sutherland imbues his portrayal of Matt with a slightly seedy desperation and Fiona Boylan and Christopher Tester complement each other as co-dependent Amanda and Lyle.
The opening play of The Camden Fringe, Love And Other Games runs every afternoon at 4.30 pm at the Etcetera Theatre, above the Oxford Arms, 265 Camden High Street until Thursday 4th August. Go and see it if you can.