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Review: Fool for Love

Former Libertine Carl Barat’s new stage partnership with Sadie Frost

  • 29/01/2010
  • Rodrigo Davies
Carl Barat and Sadie Frost

No sooner had Carl Barat finally rid himself of the shackles of one passionate double-act, he finds himself embroiled in another.

This time, however, the more dramatic the clashes, the better Barat’s performance - and the more assured his place on stage.

On Friday 29th January, the former Libertines and Dirty Pretty Things man makes his public theatre debut starring as Eddie in a new production of Sam Sheppard's 1983 play Fool for Love opposite Sadie Frost.

The story follows a tangled romance between Barat’s Eddie and his half-sister May, played by Frost. Their tempestuous world is punctuated only by two other characters: their father, who serves as part-narrator, and Martin, a timid would-be suitor of Frost.

It’s a claustrophobic, one-room setting based around the tribulations of Eddie and May; for anyone who has seen Barat with a guitar and a microphone, it's perhaps not a huge leap to imagine him fitting in as a brooding, angry young man.

“I identify with the character quite a lot – he’s a bit vicious and troubled, but at the same time a bit ridiculous and desperately in love,” Barat told 6 Music after a press preview last night (28th Jan).

So does Barat think there are parallels between the Doherty-Barat relationship and his interaction with Frost in the play?

“This is a lot more sexual. I see what you’re getting at though, there are some similarities – it’s a deep love. Deep love does funny things to people.”

Meanwhile Libertines fans who seldom go to the theatre will be pleasantly surprised to discover that Fool for Love has a rather rock ‘n’ roll brashness and ambience to it.

Coincidentally the story takes place in a motel next to the increasingly musically-imbued Mojave desert, the site of former Byrd Gram Parson’s suicide and lately a recording spot for the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Them Crooked Vultures.

Director Neil Sheppeck, who also plays Martin, wasn’t a fan of Barat’s music before casting him – and told 6 Music why he took a chance on the musician.

“We had what according to Carl was the most nervous day of his life, a read through at Sadie’s house, and I could tell that he could connect to the words and there was chemistry between him and Sadie right from the start.”

But in a play that is unequivocally a modern standard for American theatre, boasting Ed Harris, Bruce Willis, Juliette Lewis and Kim Basinger in its key roles down the years, the spotlight is inevitably going to be on Barat and Frost’s ability to cross the Atlantic’s linguistic divide.

“My accent went to London a couple of times, just visited, and then a couple of times went to New York, but I’ll try and iron those out,” Barat admitted.

Undoubtedly Barat’s got further to go to rid himself of the obvious celebrity casting slurs – and accents provide easy fodder for that.

Encouragingly, it's actually in some of the comic touches that Barat looked the most composed – and helped him to escape the angry young artist mould into which cynics would expect him to be trapped.

Neil Sheppeck certainly thinks there’s more theatre on the horizon for Barat, who last year made his on-screen debut in Nick Moran’s Joe Meek film Telstar.

“He’s loving it,” he explained. “We’ve bantered about ideas of doing other stuff, but I think he wants to see at the end of eight weeks whether he’s survived it. He might hate it by then. I think he’d love to do something else,”

Indeed, Barat’s got some way to go before the naysayers will pull in their knives, but if he can demonstrate versatility in his next role perhaps his sabbatical from considering a Libertines reunion could be lengthier than the band’s fans are hoping.

Fool For Love is at Riverside Studios in Hammersmith until March 21st.

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