Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) at Trafalgar Studios
Fiesta, adapted from Ernest Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises, is largely autobiographical. Jake, an American journalist, is a veteran of the Great War and loves bullfighting. He also confesses to his friend, fellow writer Robert that he loves a woman who died seven years ago.
Suddenly, an English woman, Lady Ashley, appears and it’s clear that she is Jake’s lost love. She didn’t die, she married another man, but she’s divorcing him and wants her old flame back. Jake gives her the cold shoulder and she impulsively sleeps with Robert. Determined to get her man though, she accompanies Jake to Pamplona where he plans to interview a young bullfighter. Robert, now enamoured with Lady Ashley, follows them to Spain and wine-fuelled carnage ensues.
Writer/director Alex Helfrecht struggles to adapt this story from page to stage. Dramatic scenes are clumsily arranged alongside monologues and the action lacks fluidity. Gideon Turner gives a movingly volatile performance as Jake, but Josie Taylor’s Lady Ashley is shrill and shrewish and it’s hard to imagine her as the love of his life. Their embraces feel forced and, since this central relationship isn’t compelling, there’s little at stake.
In addition to this, some of the directorial choices are bizarre. Actors awkwardly mime drinking wine from glasses suspended from the ceiling, then douse themselves in real wine from the glasses to indicate Spanish excess. A fantastic band of musicians underscore the action, but it feels like music is used to provide a dynamism that the drama lacks, and the dance sequences, including one in which the actor playing Lady Ashley represents a bull, are frankly embarrassing.
On paper this show is exciting it’s got Hemingway, Spain and music. But, in spite of the best efforts of some talented actors and musicians, this is a poorly conceived and weakly executed production.