REVIEW: The Pursuit of Success, Theatre Deli

The Pursuit of Success is a conversation between a passionate but awkward screenwriter (played by Kirsty Blewett) and the market-driven, shoulder-padded vixen inside her head (played by Christine Mears). Desperate to reveal the truth about pioneer Aviator, Amy Johnson, Rachel risks losing her flat and estranging herself from her family as the deadline to finish her screenplay looms. 

The main conflict centers around Rachel and the ‘lady inside her head’ (signposted during the show, in Brechtian fashion). As Christine bounces from alter ego to Rachel’s overzealous sister, to the media mogul who promises sex and Scarlett Johannsson will increase sales of Amy’s story, a clear structure struggles to emerge. Kirsty portrays Rachel as endearing but vacuous, reminiscent of Bridget Jones. While this choice receives relatable laughs, Kirsty’s clown acting dampens the credibility of Rachel’s arguments towards those who seek to discredit the importance of Amy’s story. Christine’s approach is playful and mischievous, ensuring the play doesn’t take itself too seriously.

When focus shifts to moments throughout Amy Johnson’s life that aren’t common knowledge, the play is more interesting. When Amy is unable to reply to Rachel’s questions other than to repeat the day she crashed and the little information about her death that is already known, intelligent wordplay creates a powerful scene. 

The show is billed as a gig slash dream with physical storytelling but struggles to live up to this description. An enormous duck mask and a miniature model of Amy in her aeroplane as she flies around Kirsty’s head, makes the dream sequences clear but the looping pedal and acapella singing from Christine, while pleasant to the ear, fails to create much of a gigging atmosphere. Next to an accomplished sound design that competently plays through the amplifiers, the loop pedal complicates rather than compliments. Twerking and slut dropping to Nicki Minaj is effective as parody and Rachel’s writing warm-up delivers as part war dance, part mating ritual, part Haka but the absurdity fails to mask a lack of technique and substance.

The play filters out on Rachel’s pen poised to sign a suspicious looking TV contract but without introducing an alternative, it is difficult to feel invested in Rachel’s dilemma, weakening the final image. Having said this, with a re-work, The Pursuit of Success has the potential to join the plethora of badass feminist shows out there and considering this is a production debut from Lobster Frock, it’s a positive beginning.

 

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