Paper Fortunes – review

An inventive, witty, but moving tale of a family setting sail on a holiday together

Roz Wyllie is an emerging writer who knows how to resist clichés. It’s summer, and, with Canal Café Theatre’s new resident producers Rogue Writers, she’s chosen to deal with a family going on holiday. But what might have been an invitation to lather on a high-factor, formulaic story of a falling-out, here becomes a poetic, witty observation of sadness and self-deprecation.

Bill sits reading his paper as his wife Mandy, daughter Chloe and family friend Bex rush to prepare for their trip abroad. Each takes it in turn to talk to the audience as the increasingly hectic performance unfolds. Bill is unperturbed to the point of apathy, Mandy is achingly alone, Chloe is a ragingly hormonal lesbian – “the girl to be experimental with” – and Bex, despite having her beak lodged in Proust for the duration, is an idiot.

What Wyllie adds to this drama, with director Cameron Harris’ slick eye for detail, is an understanding that marriage can be a paradox: this one is both the sweaty, mundane snoring of a race that’s been run, but it’s also an instinctive affinity. There’s a beautiful scene where Bill and Mandy return to a spot where they first fell in love, and those feelings flood to the surface, they dance, and they kiss.

Even if that fits the bill a touch, Harris’ production is inventive enough to keep striking a chord. Amy Newton as the lusty Chloe and Lily Philips as Bex are both mature enough to play the adolescence with enough gumption to be believable, while Drew McKenzie as Bill has a splendid nonchalance. And Claire Porter is heartbreaking as the forlorn mother, balancing some meek inadequacy with the rage of a woman who needs to be heard. It is those balances that drive Wyllie’s point: that the nuances of a family together, home or away, are intensely personal.  

Paper Fortunes

Canal Café Theatre, London

Jon Watson

August 25

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