The life of the anarchic French jazz musician Boris Vian (Stephen Harper) is played out as he lies outside a cinema, apoplectic with rage and dying as a result of viewing the risible cinematic adaptation of his banned best-selling novel, I Spit on Your Graves.
As you might expect from such a free-form precis, Vian's life is not given the full biographical treatment. Yet this little smattering of facts, developed effortlessly on a theme of surrealism, presents a life which is still so bizarre that you would be hard pressed to make it up.
The surrealism trip manifests itself most coherently in Naomi Wilkinson's set, dominated by a vertical wall that has all the appearances - including furniture - of being a floor. Not only does this create a feeling of dislocation and the odd moment of comedy, it also serves as a frame on which the company can practise their own brand of physical theatre.
There could be no jazz without music. Zoe Rahman's piano score - which she plays live, becoming a part of the plot and a passive participant in the action - provides the framework for the story. It’s augmented by a series of trumpet improvisations, which Adrian Williams Longo plays, for the most part, off stage.
It takes a strong performance from Stephen Harper to bring any coherence to the plot. It is not individual scenes - such as when the very wonderful Hayley Carmichael, as the enigmatic Ursula Gruber, challenges Vian to write a best-selling novel in ten days - but the way in which they’re strung together and conflated with acted-out scenes from the movie.
The overall result sometimes has a tendency to try a little too hard to be wacky. Still, all the really difficult things in I'm a Fool to Want You - like bringing a sense of strong narrative drive to the fragmentary whole or Carmichael's creation of many different characters - are done so well as to appear effortless.
- Thom Dibdin (reviewed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh)