American screen actress and rock musician Juliette Lewis made her stage acting debut last night (15 June 2006, previews from 7 June) in a new production of Sam Shephard’s 1980s play Fool for Love at the West End’s Apollo Theatre, alongside New Zealander Martin Henderson as her obsessive lover from the past (See News, 18 Apr 2006).

Lindsay Posner directs the 90-minute piece, which recounts a painful love story. In a seedy motel room in southern California, May and Eddie go back beyond their adult lives, back to the legacy of their parents and their parents before. Larry Lamb and Joe Duttine complete the cast.

While many felt it was less shocking today than it was 20 years ago, most overnight critics enjoyed Shepard’s play and were impressed by Lewis’ performance. If some suggested that she could have been more intense, the general view was that Lewis is less inhibited than English actresses have been in the role.

  • Michael Coveney on - Coveney said Fool for Love “arrives at the Apollo like a disturbing message in a bottle from a distant shore… In the casting of two non-English actors – the Los Angeles film star and rock singer Juliette Lewis, and the New Zealander Martin Henderson – as the half-siblings, ‘cousins’ and incestuous lovers May and Eddie, he rescues Shepard from the English coyness that makes him merely exotic… Fantasy and reality overlap with each other to create a sense of anxiety and foreboding, fears fulfilled by a climactic conflagration… You would never know that this was Juliette Lewis’ stage debut. She is absolutely superb in the role, combining washed-up misery and a casual air of sexuality with a natural unselfconsciousness and total relaxation…. Both performances lack any sense of calculation and fully inhabit their own savagely choreographed scenario of heightened doom.”

  • Benedict Nightingale in The Times - “Lewis could be still more intense. After all, May is trying to reconstruct her life in obscurity when something terrible yet terrific happens: Henderson’s Eddie arrives out of the blue, having driven 2,400 miles from his trailer park to her seedy motel room to satisfy his obsession, which is her… But if there could be more inward burning and boiling from Lewis, she still gives a performance that justifies her hop from her Hollywood habitat… It’s tough, unsentimental stuff, with no hint of the winsomeness film actresses so often find irresistible, and it’s matched by Henderson’s Eddie, who is wild, scattered, hapless, hopeless and in every respect the sort of loner and loser who haunts Shepard’s plays and his American West.”

  • Michael Billington in the Guardian - Billington gave three stars to “a perfectly decent, but hardly revelatory, revival of (Shepard’s) 1983 play about sexual desperation on the edge of the Mojave desert.” He compared the characters to “figures in a Greek tragedy acting out a pre-ordained pattern of flight and pursuit. The play has a visceral power which tends to evaporate when played by British actors. But Lindsay Posner, the director, gets one thing right by casting the American film and rock star, Juliette Lewis, as May.” According to Billingon, Lewis “catches the emotional confusion of a woman who, having kissed Eddie with voracious passion, instinctively knees him in the groin. This, you feel, is a woman in the grip of an erotic obsession that yields only self-loathing. But, while Lewis is psychologically astute, her voice lacks expressive range.” He was “slightly more impressed by the New Zealand-born Martin Henderson who brings out all of Eddie's reflex physicality.” He added: “It is all well done, and there is good support from Joe Duttine as May's hapless date, and Larry Lamb as the reminiscing elder. But a play that appeared shocking in the 1980s now seems to rest on an essentially conservative principle: that of characters who are helpless in the grip of fate.”

  • Paul Taylor in the Independent - “Sam Shepard's 1983 play, Fool for Love, is a savagely funny and disturbing study of the kind of fatal attraction that veers between devouring need and touchy, furious rejection… With the American film star and rock chick Juliette Lewis and the New Zealander movie hunk Martin Henderson in the leading roles, Lindsay Posner's revival sets out to show the benefits of using performers unrestrained by our native inhibitions… You would certainly have thought that Lewis, with her gift for suggesting the dysfunctional and the dangerous, would be ideal casting. But while she absolutely looks the part (think fallen, black-haired doll) she too often sounds (in this, her professional stage debut) as though she is reciting learned lines rather than fully inhabiting the role. Henderson makes a strong and exciting impression as Eddie - virile, volatile, endearingly ridiculous as he tries to work off jealousy of male competition… Missing in this revival… is that sense of frantic psychological claustrophobia.” In the supporting roles, said Taylor, “Larry Lamb adroitly captures the Old Man's unlovely transition from irresponsible detachment to indignant, hollow self-justification… and Joe Duttine is very amusing as May's sweating, nonplussed suitor.”

    - by Caroline Ansdell