Lion & Unicorn Theatre, London
Taking inspiration from the music of Leonard Cohen, Emma Burnell’s No Cure For Love – a play with original songs (rather than Cohen covers) – bucks the trend a little when it comes to shows you might expect to see at the Camden Fringe. In a programme full of hungry new grads, a writer and cast d’un certain âge stand out, offering a fresh if wellworn perspective of how the pursuit of love can hurt just as much even as it changes as we get older.
We meet Rose and Scott backstage at the Broadstairs Folk Festival. They’ve shared more than bills in the past but it didn’t end well between them and so there’s a certain frisson in the air as Stephen Russell’s manbunned and tight-jeaned Scott can’t help but turn on his would-be rockstar charm again and Wendy Morgan’s Rose reflexively flicks up her scarves and protective shell – she’s heard it all before and remembers waking up in an empty bed all too well.
Burnell’s writing stutters a little around the small talk but once we reach matters of the heart, sings and stings with hard-won truths, especially when it comes to the male ego. Russell and Morgan both offer up compelling performances, mixing cynicism with charm, and deliver the original songs (co-written by Burnell with Jordan Brown) well. Burnell as director could usefully trust the music more to cover overlong scene changes that sap the intimacy of the piece.
Also at the Lion & Unicorn, Seán Basil Crawford’s The Rice Krispie Killer took the two-hander to a completely different place. Donnacha and Finbar are brothers who haven’t left their Dublin home for nigh on 18 years and at first glance, their existence is one of high comic absurdism. Crawford’s skilful writing conjures up a wonderful fraternal bond, at turns tetchy and tender, and hilarious with its own brand of malapropisms.
But whereas we might once have casually tossed off a hermit existence as something midly amusing, we now appreciate it all too often has darker roots. And as Crawford’s daffy ebullience as Finbar rubs up against the more inscrutable edges of Ross Gaynor’s Donnacha, the rumbles of something more disturbing become harder to ignore. Directed well by Niall Jordan for Little Shadow Theatre Company, this is a dark comedy with a real snap, crackle and pop.