A play about a family’s summer holiday - what could be more appropriate in August? Add to this the location - a canalside pub theatre in leafy Little Venice - and this sounds like a tempting evening.
Roz Wyllie’s new play Paper Fortunes charts the week-long holiday of father Bill (Drew McKenzie), mother Mandy (Claire Porter), teenage daughter Chloe (Amy Newton) and her object of desire Bex (Lily Philips) in a villa on the island of Gozo. For the parents it’s a trip down memory lane. For Chloe it’s a perfect opportunity to try to “remove Bex’s g-string” while for Bex it seems principally to be an opportunity to quote Proust to anyone who’ll listen.
It’s a promising start. Mandy finds that returning to the scenes of her youth is more torment than pleasure and grumbles to Bill about the lack of excitement in their marriage. Being an ‘anything for a quiet life’ sort of guy his answer is to take her out for a nice meal and smooch with her by the pool – a tactic that seems to satisfy. Meanwhile Chloe plies Bex with cocktails and waits for her moment. But Bex, spurred on by Proust and the maxims she has learned from the womens’ group where they met, makes it all too clear what she thinks of lesbians.
For a play about frustration, sexual and otherwise, Paper Fortunes is itself frustrating. The characters talk at length about what they want, but do little about it. Opportunities to bring a bit of excitement into the story are missed. The group visit a catholic shrine and rub up against what real grief and true faith mean. Far from being a moment of clarity for them, all this scene does is expose the self-indulgence and narrowness of their own supposed problems.
Similarly when Bex appears in her nightie by the pool, where Bill is having a quiet smoke, the play looks as though it might become exciting – a bit of inter-generational snogging at least. But he gets her a glass of water and the moment is lost.
In spite of some funny one-liners the play, like a damp summer holiday, fails to really take off. Sadly Chloe is not the only one to go home disappointed.
- Louise Gooding