Reviewer: Kris Hallett
Now this is a rarity. A proper one-star stinker that features a triple threat of terrible book, slack direction and uncertain performances. It takes a lot to clear the cabaret tent of the exhausted and the damned seeking shade from the blazing sunshine on Sunday afternoon at Latitude, but here it’s achieved with ease. It was so bad that it could have almost been mistaken it for satire if it hadn’t been for the steely concentration from the two actors whose hopes of being in a success died as quickly as they opened their mouth. The Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society from The Play That Goes Wrong would have looked at this script and said thanks but no thanks.
Which is a shame as the premise of Fire Raisers’ Femme Fatale dragged me into its inviting shade in the first place. Set in the famous Chelsea Hotel in New York in 1968 Nico, singer of the Velvet Underground comes face to face with Valerie Solanas, radical feminist and would be assassin of Andy Warhol. These two women form a sort of bond as they wait to be called onto the set for the latest Warhol movie. Some thirty years after the death of both these women, the work touches in the clumsiest way possible on #MeToo and the pull of the male genius. So at least it can claim a relevance I guess.
Finding details about who has created or worked on this piece is almost impossible online, so may thankfully have saved some careers, but let’s go through its litany of punishments. The script is full of clunking metaphors and narrative exposition that thinks the dropping of names and ‘of course you know I released five albums after that’ will do the trick. Actors talk all the time about how the great playwrights are easy to learn and easier to speak, the lines doing the tricks for them. Here they can’t even get the words out, one syllable too many, a vowel too far.
The direction is slack, movements conceived not in response to the text but just to allow the actors to move from time to time which they do in awkward, shuffling form. To be honest, the two of them look like rabbits caught in the headlights, committing the basic faux-pas of acting of reciting their lines without listening to what the other one is saying and never picking up a line quickly enough, so you could stage a sonata between the beats. One would guess that rehearsal time has been minimal, and the work not had enough time to bed in but even with this caveat it seems there is no hope. There have been witnessed read-throughs on day one of rehearsals with more chemistry, insight and skill. It deserves a star for its guilty pleasure, work this bad doesn’t make our stages anymore. But let’s hope its years until we have to see something this bad again. Stunningly shit.
Reviewed on 15 July 2018