In Search of Applause
Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 13th February 2019
“Though there is some good writing and funny moments, the format is difficult to engage in, and an unrelatable protagonist with an unrelatable problem doesn’t help”
Lorelei loves the stage. She’s a professional clown, or she would be, if it wasn’t so competitive and London wasn’t so expensive. She had to take regular jobs to survive. But then she met Nigel. Nigel has money to burn, and suddenly Lorelei finds herself in a situation where she doesn’t need to work. She’s comfortable. Secure. She has all the time in the world to pursue clowning. And yet, somehow, two years later, she still hasn’t got around to it.
In Search of Applause is billed as a one-woman romantic comedy about the sacrifices we make for security. The play, written and performed by Maroussia Vladi, and directed by Andrew Hurst, does not match the description. First, it’s not a romantic comedy. It’s a series of Lorelei’s ruminations on why, even with Nigel’s endless resources at her disposal, she isn’t happy. Vladi uses elements of physical theatre, including mime, to set a light, comedic tone. But ‘romantic comedy’ is a genre that establishes very concrete expectations, none of which are met.
Second, the programme says the play asks how much we’re willing to sacrifice for comfort and security. It’s misleading because it suggests the relatable dilemma of sacrificing dreams for stability and careers that pay. In Search of Applause isn’t about this. The actual question the play poses is: would you stay with someone you didn’t love for his or her money? It’s not surprising the show isn’t billed this way, as it’s an outdated premise modern audiences will have little interest in.
Because the set, costumes, and props are 1950s, it’s perplexing to be made gradually aware the play is set in the present day. The 50s style may be a metaphor for Lorelei’s “old-fashioned”, How to Marry a Millionaire mentality, but it’s so contrived and disorienting it works against the story rather than for it. While the design is aesthetically interesting, and there’s clever use of props, it’s hard enough to believe we’re anywhere but a small pub theatre without the set screaming the wrong era.
The show itself is a long sixty minutes of stilted, one-sided conversations – an onslaught of rambling and artless ideas. Though there is some good writing and funny moments, the format is difficult to engage in, and an unrelatable protagonist with an unrelatable problem doesn’t help.
The script, in many ways, paints Lorelei as vapid, “insensitive and spoilt”. A stereotypical ‘trophy wife’. She wears heels and lingerie slips. That this person could also be a clown stretches the limits of imagination. And we’re given no assistance. For a story about someone who loves clowning, the almost complete absence of it form the show leaves a gaping hole. We never see Lorelei as a clown. It’s a missed chance for boldness, an infusion of much needed freshness to the performance, and believable depth to the character.
In Search of Applause has glimmers of intriguing ideas, but they need development.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Photography by Ian Hart
In Search of Applause
Old Red Lion Theatre until 2nd March
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: