Written and directed by Gintare Parulyte, Lovefool is certainly unmissable. This show mixes tongue in cheek humour with incredibly deep and moving moments, using an array of mediums to tell a familiar story and develop a character who could quite literally step off the stage into reality.

the belle of the proverbial fringe ball

Lovefool starts on a rather comedic note, a tone that is set by an old health class video, which is a disarming start that has us chuckling at its outdatedness. This show follows Grace (Kristin Winters), a struggling actress who goes above and beyond to receive love and validation from the men that she encounters at this time. Throughout the show we learn about her as a person and her experiences as she learns to process her trauma and learn how to love herself. In between scenes, David Gaspar has interspersed vintage home videos and recordings about relationships, gender stereotypes, and family dynamics. We never see the men that Grace interacts with, but between Gaspar’s recordings and Winters’ performance they might as well be right in front of us, they are just so real. We can picture the misogynistic contempt of the American producer, the condescension of the priest and the calmness of her therapist, they become incredibly life-like figures and representations of the themes Parulyte explores in her text.

Parulyte has created a fully fleshed character who feels incredibly familiar, using a stream of consciousness approach to take us through the story. And when you see the world through the eyes of a single character, what they say becomes extremely personal to us. There are so many thematic details within the text that we don’t have to look hard to find, it’s a web of meaning that gives us just enough to piece together the subtext, without being explicit about it. Parulyte has a great command of language that sets us on this emotional journey with Grace, one that we become completely wrapped up in.

As Grace, Winters leads us down a winding narrative path in her performance, evolving from a snarky almost dislikable character into one that we not only admire for taking control of her life and finding her self-worth, but we empathise with and admire for her strength. Winters’ occasional snarky narration in between more subdued moments creates effortlessly dark humoristic light relief, before turning 180 degrees as the character reveals more about herself and past. Her dry sarcasm turns descriptions of completely mundane moments and side-comments into an opportunity for laughter. Throughout this show, Winters showcases her ability to really control the inflection and tone of her voice, going so far as to subtly give us a heads-up as to when something is not quite right, where we as an outside viewer are alerted to problematic behaviuors and moments, even if the character herself is not always aware of them.

There’s a moment where Winters goes into the audience and asks us a series of questions that encourages us to be vulnerable, something that is daunting in a room full of strangers. But it speaks to her performance as well as Parulyte’s writing that we’re given room for our answers to be anonymous in the ‘you or someone you know’ way. They create an incredibly safe space that makes us feel like we’re not alone. And Winters’ quiet support means that as the questions go on, we feel more comfortable putting our hands up when they apply to us. It’s a really nice moment of camaraderie that you really don’t see a lot of, a much-needed release in a supportive setting. Winters makes us feel seen.

It is emotionally difficult to watch Lovefool, because the writing and Winters’ performance is incredibly raw, and hits us to our core. It’s probably the best lesson in empathy there is. It’s a poignant piece that doesn’t let the solemnity of the events and issues explored stop the quick wit and snarkiness of the character from coming through, which is probably why it feels so real. It’s such a genuinely emotive piece, and there is no doubt that Lovefool will be the belle of the proverbial fringe ball.

Reviews by Katerina Partolina Schwartz

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The Blurb

A brutally honest, hilarious and heartbreaking one-woman show navigating the impossibly confusing gender dynamics of modern love.

Grace, a young woman hungry for affection and looking for love in all the wrong places, is forced to discover what healthy (self) love might look like. A sensational solo performance championing a life’s endless pursuit of healing, told with vulnerability and humour.

Presented by the Théâtre National du Luxembourg, where it played to sold out audiences and received critical acclaim. This extraordinary piece of new writing receives its UK Premiere at The Coronet Theatre.

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