Written and directed by Jessica Craig-Piper
With Lawrence Ashford, Zoe Cooper and Kathryn Delaney
The Blue Room Theatre
October 5 - 22, 2011
I’ve been looking forward to the next outing by Jessica Craig-Piper and the Red Rabbit Collective since their Jack and Jill also at the Blue Room last year. While their new work, which comes here fresh from a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, confirms that promise, it’s a disappointment in a number of ways.
Flirt Fiction steps away from the domestic drama of Jack and Jill in favour of a more artificial structure and mannered approach. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a pity they chose, on this occasion at least, not to continue to bring the perspective of young artists to real life as it is lived by their generation.
What we have instead is, as Craig Piper accurately enough puts it, “a theatrical journey into the creative minds of young writers struggling to articulate the language of desire”. A man (Lawrence Ashford) and a woman (Kathryn Delaney) meet in a café, and after a salaciously funny exchange with a decidedly-less-than-impressed waitress (Zoe Cooper), they set each other a challenge. She is to write stories about sex with sex, he about sex without sex. It’s the resulting lurid tales, acted out by Ashford and Delaney with Cooper playing a series of objects of desire, sprites and hallucinations, that comprises most of what ensues. There’s a passing development of the characters and their relationship, and a denouement of sorts, but essentially the series of erotic fantasies they act out are the show.
Ashford, Delaney and Cooper are assured, adept and attractive performers, and, in the small Blue Room space they are powerful presences. Delaney, in particular, is right in her element here (her alter ego Fanny La Rue is our leading burlesque MC) and has a provocative way with every glance or curl of the lip. There are healthy dollops of dirty fun and a fair bit of shock value – a little less shocking, perhaps, in this pornographic world of ours. One scene in particular, a determined flogging of a doubled over Ashford, suggested he had either been very cleverly padded or would fit in well across town with the visiting Shaolin Warriors.
But the text is uncomfortably overwritten, especially in the early scenes, and the whole thing seems more an exercise than a play, a thesis rather than a story. The talented Red Rabbit Collective has done it well enough, but they can do better than this.