Adele’s Heart is an immensely powerful new play by renowned Italian playwright Giampiero Rappa that is unafraid to tackle large and difficult issues. In an unnamed country a civil war has torn society apart, leaving only a few scavengers who hunt for food, tend their wounds, and try to avoid the falling bombs. We meet two of them: Lucas and Adele. Wrapped in sleeping bags, on an entirely empty stage, they argue, flirt, cry, and attempt to entertain one another. In other hands this scenario could easily have become dull, but I spent the duration of Adele’s Heart unable to tear my eyes away from the stage, a testament to the excellent performances given by both leads.
The play is not unlike a standard dystopian survival thriller, a la Mad Max, I Am Legend, or almost anything by John Wyndham. What sets it apart is the believability of its characters and setting, and the line of naturalistic wit that runs through it. The pessimistic, creative, and melodramatic Lucas provides a lot of this. After dissecting his own personality during one loud, funny, and rather existential row, the bombs begin to fall and Lucas starts crying. ‘I’m not crying because I’m frightened,’ he explains, ‘I’m crying because I’ve got a sh*tty character’. It’s a moment typical of the show, always working within a recognisable framework, but constantly able to surprise.
The script, however, needs some work. It’s difficult to tell how much of this can be blamed on the translation, which is normally fine, but evidently not by a writer with English as a first language. There are plenty of minor but awkward slips: ‘in spite on everything,’ for example, or ‘curse you out’ (for ‘swear at you’), and attempts at impassioned profanity that probably flow in Italian occasionally sound stilted in translation. Then again, good English swearing can take a lifetime to master, and this is only a minor flaw in an otherwise gripping show.