Old Red Lion Theatre, London – until 2 March 2019
Once upon a time, marriage in the moneyed classes guaranteed financial stability for women – a period when women had few rights of their own. It’s only in the last 60-plus years or so that the possibility for women to ‘have it all’ has been an option – to have a rewarding, well-paid career, plus marriage and children, etc. This being the case, would any woman nowadays choose to be ‘looked after’?
Written and performed by Maroussia Vladi, In Search Of Applause examines the choices a young woman makes regarding fulfilment and ‘happiness’ – from her initial idealism to ‘lying in the bed she’s made’.
Directed by Andrew Hurst, the play begins with Lorelei discussing her previous training and life as a clown. Initially enjoying her ‘bohemian’ existence in Paris, life without money in London is no picnic. Asides from people’s responses to Lorelei’s chosen vocation, modern dating with its egalitarian emphasis on ‘splitting the bills’ takes it toll on her finances and who she dates.
Eventually marrying Nigel – a successful app designer – Lorelei doesn’t need to work and can spend her time in any way she sees fit. Now would be the time to pursue all her ideas for creative projects, without the pressure of having to recuperate costs. But she doesn’t. And while her husband provides for her in every material way, he can’t give her his time… or love.
In many ways Lorelei is like the aristocrat from centuries ago who without routine or urgency to earn a living, spends her days dreaming up ways to fill her time. The closest thing she has to a ‘friend’ who can challenge her is Harry, the juice bar barista. While Lorelei undeniably goes to flirt with this younger man who ‘notices’ her, Harry is also a mirror image of herself with plenty of untapped creative potential, but content to ‘drift’ for the time being.
As Lorelei, Vladi is both aware of her own dissatisfaction, but unable to ‘scratch her itch’. Talking to her psychiatrist, we see her ruminating over her previous choices, but still lacking the wherewithal to change her situation so that she can have a fully-rounded existence.
Within the play, Vladi shows she’s not oblivious to the meta- aspects of the narrative and how in creating ‘art’ nowadays, there is the ‘chicken and the egg’ debate regarding creating something for its own sake versus having a specific audience. The fact that within Applause this desire to be seen and appreciated is entwined with the search for romantic love gives the show an extra frisson.
In contrast to Nigel who ‘lives’ for work, Lorelei used to perform to ‘live’ – to feel alive. But is she willing to leave her comfort zone to get her ‘mojo’ back..?