Assembly Rooms (Venue 3)
4 stars ***
AS THE NEW Asian superpowers move to the centre of the global stage, thoughtful Americans are beginning to look again at the great American Century through which we have just lived, and at the meanings of its power and glory, arrogance and style. And there is no American writer more thoughtful – in an explosive and surreally comic kind of way – than Brian Parks, the New-York-based creator of Americana Absurdum and other Fringe classics. His latest play is set in some post-death limbo, where a gilded couple from a decade in which rich Americans defined global style and elegance – say the 1930’s, or the early 1950’s – are bantering furiously, as they prepare to go out for an evening, about the abuses of power, and of other people, that define their past, and haunt their strange, repetitive present.
Like a cross between Sartre and Noel Coward, their quick-fire dialogue pings around the tiny space of the Wildman Room, often obscuring its brilliant poetic content with excessive lashings of style; Sophie Fletcher’s production – featuring a tense-looking David Calvitto, and a gorgeously-gowned Issy van Randwyck – is far too nervy and hyperactive to flatter a script well able to speak for itself. At its crucial moments, though, Imperial Fizz generates a strange, eerie power. It captures both the high elegance and the deep vulgarity of wealthy American culture at its height; and through the unlikely medium of the elaborate cocktail, mixed and served again and again as the drama plays out, it toys with the imagery of the cultural achievement and grandeur we lose when such a dominant culture crumbles, even if it richly deserves to do so.
Until 30 August, p.261