Whenever I wanted to climb five flights of stairs to sit on a hard wooden chair in an attic and listen to people shouting, I’d visit Great Aunt Frieda who spent her deaf and declining years on the topmost floor of a Victorian nursing home in Twickenham. Now there’s the option of Found 111, the temporary theatre space atop the Foyle’s Building in Charing Cross Road.

 

Despite being written in 1983, Sam Shepard’s Fool For Love never made it to Broadway until this time last year. Even then, Daniel Aukin’s production ran for a limited twelve week engagement at the 600-seat Friedman theatre, so clearly everyone thinks it need an intimate setting.

 

Ben Stones’ stage design manages to defeat its intimacy by hollowing out the back of the acting area like a mine, and filling the auditorium with dirt. For a seedy Mojave desert motel room, it also has a remarkably solid and frequently slammable door.

 

Fool For Love resonates with me because I have vivid memories of Julie Walters and Ian Charleson in the National Theatre original, and recall being caught up in the fire of their passion and argument. Not so much, here, thanks to slightly gimmicky casting based on their television partnership in Ripper Street.  Although a splendid Kate Middleton in King Charles III, Lydia Wilson doesn’t engage you so well as angry, irrational May unsure if she loves or loathes her lonesome cowboy-cum-stuntman Eddie.

 

Adam Rothenberg is so much more credible and effective as Eddie that when Luke Neal shows up as her newer boyfriend, and after Rothenberg slams his face into the pillar – in the most effective use of a stage obstruction currently visible in London – then chums up with him, you sort of wish Wilson would get lost and let the boys do Brokeback Mountain.

 

Shepard’s plays – Buried Child is about to surface at Trafalgar Studios with Ed Harris and Amy Madigan – are more about emotions than events: sibling rivalries, damaged relationships and the impotent rage of the disenfranchised.

Usually watchable, often engaging, but less so here.  Meant to be a pressure cooker, but feels like a microwave.

 

Until December 17

Production photo by Marc Brenner