May and Eddie are linked forever by their childhood love affair and the tragic fallout of their family pasts. Just when May thinks it all might finally be over, Eddie comes charging back into her life to remind her of their shared secrets and the knowledge she can’t escape.
Fool for Love is both an aggressive, biting commentary on mixed-up sexual histories and a wonky dark comedy from cowboy country. Eddie (Lachlan Ruffy) and May (Kate Betcher) share a sordid and traumatic history stretching past their own romantic relationship to their heartbroken mothers and their absent father. It was after they had already begun the push and pull of their relationship that they found out they were half-siblings and thus began a pattern of chasing each other across the country, never letting them forget their history and grow as individuals.
After tracking her down, Eddie finds May in a small motel room. Represented as a collection of pig pens, the set design was more representative of the region, harking back to the two’s upbringing around small towns and farms or perhaps the landscape they’ve each traversed away from and to each other over the years.
Eddie is a big, violent character prone to using his physicality to threaten and loom around May’s small motel room. He lashes out aggressively before quieting and seeming to acquiesce to May’s wants, a common pattern of manipulation. Abuse is a difficult dance to watch, however, the dynamic between Ruffy and Betcher never quite stretched to dangerous degrees. Ruffy’s Eddie was careful in his movements and steady in his tone of voice which didn’t allow for the anger and unpredictability of the character’s power. At the same time, Betcher seemed uncommitted to the rapid swings of submission and defiance that a survivor like May represented. When the whole tale has been spun, though, May and Eddie come together for the stand alone moment of tenderness in the production and appear to rewrite the entire evening.
The supporting cast fulfilled unusual roles for the narrative. Neil McLeod as the lovers’ father is a haunting figure, shuffling through scenes and shouting out orders from beyond the grave. His purpose seems irrelevant as May and Eddie tell their own story without his interjections. Martin, May’s unfortunate date and the catalyst for the revelation of her history, was brilliantly portrayed by Joel Horwood as uncomfortable, accommodating, and unimposing presence. A seemingly small role compared to the couple, Horwood shone even as he stuttered.
From one angle, this is a silly story, something difficult to believe or picture happening in reality. But it’s also a specific take on trauma and family dysfunction, if only the script allowed for more prolonged moments of softness and vulnerability. If more time was spent building towards a solution than rehashing memories, then this may have been a more powerful or genuine script. As it sits, Fool for Love is focused on sexual aggression, family misfortune, and the lengths people will go to for any love at all.
Fool for Love is running at Limelight on Oxford from January 4th – 12th