The degeneration of culture after the First World War is tackled in this newly translated version of Italian drama. Unfortunately, the dilapidated set-design reflects more on the chaotic acting rather than the state of post-war Germany.

The lines are too often delivered in waves of feverish squabbles, while actors gesticulate randomly. This makes the production a melee of sights and sounds that never quite reach coherence. The plot revolves around a woman who has lost her identity. Frances Rose, who plays the schizophrenic belle Lucia, most certainly looks the part, but sadly of her two characters, neither is played convincingly. She wavers annoyingly from neurotic cabaret star to petty debutant, and although one should feel sympathy for this amnesiac heroine, one loses the will to do so.

However, Lucia/Elma’s twitterings are occasionally drowned out by her co-star Jonathan Sims’s cries for attention. At least his lines are delivered with passion, he is shouting to get the lines heard and to provoke a reaction rather than to convey emotion. At one point he draws a gun, adding yet more hysteria and confusion to an already bewildering scene.

There is enthusiasm in the actors which is a redeeming feature of any dramatic spectacle. The estranged husband (Laurence Ridgway) is in a constant state of dismay, but his over-enthused responses tend to verge on the ridiculous.

The mysterious character of Boffi, played by Joseph Robertson, outshines the rest of the cast, which in this case is more of a relief than an achievement. Regrettably, Boffi is often caught up in the hurricane of exchanges between the heroine and her two male protagonists, and therefore the depth he manages to portray goes ignored.

This complicated plot, topped off with the appearance of an invalid impostor in the final stages of the play, looks more like a restrained circus than theatre.

 

Two stars

As you desire me is on in 4th Week at the OFS Studio, 19.30, Tuesday-Saturday