Sweet Fanny Adams
White Bear Theatre
Reviewed – 20th December 2017
“plenty of clever moments of dialogue throughout”
Jack and Emily are an alcoholic couple stuck in a rut. Jack is a playwright with writer’s block, although he repeatedly denies its existence, whilst Emily is an actress without a part. In the living room of Jack’s apartment, as he attempts to complete his next great work, they verbally abuse and belittle each other for their failings as artists and lovers.
Sweet Fanny Adams is an original work written by Matthew Lyons, who performed the frustrated Jack alongside Edie Newman as Emily. After a slightly nervous start, Newman’s Emily quickly relaxed into the part, giving the initially unlikable character a softer, more palatable side. Although she seemed to despise him most of the time, Newman portrayed a sense of vulnerability and insecurity which kept pulling her back to Jack. A similar variance in tone felt lacking from Lyons’ performance, as Jack was consistently mean and self-involved. Context from each character’s youth was introduced as if to explain their behaviour – for Jack an alcoholic father and suicidal mother and Emily an abusive father. However, the flippant way this was revealed (as jibes at one another) felt heavy handed and abrupt, and was not revisited in greater depth until much later in the dialogue.
The constant oscillation between malignance and affection was often abrupt; more than once as their bitter arguments came to a climax, Emily simply left the room, only to come back seconds later with a full glass of wine or a new bottle and move on without resolve. The piece was self-aware of moments of melodrama, but the acknowledgement often came frustratingly late, to the point where I couldn’t be sure whether action was sincere or later to be ridiculed.
There were plenty of clever moments of dialogue throughout that provided respite from the couple’s dismal outlook and an unexpectedly sweet ending lifts the piece. After all the vitriol and malice, we are left with a seed of hope.
Reviewed by Amber Woodward
Sweet Fanny Adams
is at the White Bear Theatre until 23rd December