Beautiful Little Fool

As one of the most famous American authors of all time, many people will know of F. Scott Fitzgerald and yet the woman behind the man, his wife Zelda, has been overlooked for the most part. Beautiful Little Fool tells us the story of what happened to her because of their declining marriage. Typically, Zelda is regarded as the first American flapper, a symbol of the 20’s, a party girl and a wife - but is not really considered in any more depth than that.

An entertaining and evocative insight into the Roaring Twenties

We see strong actresses playing weak female characters, for the most part. The exception to this is Zelda (Gabriella Sills) who attempts defiance against her male oppressors. This distinctly contrasts with her growing submissiveness in the hospital scenes. Sills’ performance is courageous, confident and enthralling. Her effective performance presents the journey that Zelda went on towards her breakdown as she was continually dissected by the men in her life who felt threatened by her tenacity. This play also considers the effect of other people’s treatment on one’s mental health. Gweneth Stabler’s performance as Grace was authentic and affecting as she too finds some strength from Zelda to confront her husband.

Gabriella Sills’ writing is animated, captivating and stimulating. It comments on the era’s treatment of women and the misogynistic views that existed, expecting women to be doting, docile and dutiful wives with no purpose other than to support their husbands and bear children. The fragmented narrative of the piece jumps back and forth in the chronology, presenting a comparison between the early days of the Fitzgerald marriage when things were jolly, full of colour and warmth, and the cold, plain and lonely life Zelda led once admitted to a psychiatric hospital. The contrast is highlighted by the lighting, props and costume and it is noted that F. Scott Fitzgerald is never present whilst she is in hospital, showing his abandonment. However, the two things that remain on either side of Zelda’s breakdown are alcohol and her paintings, a symbol of her saboteur and her saviour. My only issue with the writing is the rather irresolute ending, I was left wanting more from the final scene as the issue of Zelda’s mental health and marriage was left open ended.

It was very interesting to learn how creative Zelda Fitzgerald was and how much she had created that her husband took the credit for. Perhaps if she had been encouraged instead of scolded for her forward-thinking ambition, we could have had another literary great’s work to enjoy. Close Up Theatre present an entertaining and evocative insight into the Roaring Twenties. Commenting on the antiquated sexism of those times, it makes me glad that we have moved far past that attitude towards equality and feminism. 

Reviews by Katie Daniel

Fringe Central

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★★★
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The Blurb

No one epitomised 1920s hedonism more than Zelda Fitzgerald. Lauded as the first American flapper, Zelda’s reliance on booze, glamour, sex and her fashionable novelist husband, F Scott Fitzgerald, sent her life into an explosive downwards spiral of depression and creative repression. The model of Daisy from Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Zelda struggled to find her own lasting voice amongst all the creative talents of 1920s Paris, with her dedicated attempts at writing, dancing and painting all being brutally quashed by Scott. Close Up Theatre: sell-out status 2004 to 2016.

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