Tuesday was a day of Family Stage firsts. Mummy’s first trip to Tristan Bates Theatre. Auntie Poppins’ first press night. And the first time Mummy couldn’t tell the munchkins the name of the show she was seeing because it had a naughty word in the title! The intriguingly named F**k Freud is the brainchild of Lucio Veronesi, an Italian actor and playwright whose life experiences are the inspiration for his debut play. Having premiered at Camden Fringe, this cutting comedy has now transferred to the Tristan Bates for a short run, which we were delighted to review.
F**K Freud tells the story of Leone (played by Veronesi), a young actor navigating a new life in a world that doesn’t always make sense. It’s very important that Leone is Italian. Or, at least, it seems to be to everyone else. From his annoying agent, Mark (Jason Imlach) constantly sending him for stereotypical Italian roles to casting directors asking if he is related to Luciano Pavarotti, Leone is fed up that nobody sees anything more in him. They could at least get his name right. But then again, the customers at his cinema day job can’t even remember the name of the film they’re seeing. Meanwhile best mate Eddie’s (Robbie Fletcher-Hill) acting career seems to be taking off, but all Leone’s getting offered is a role as Super Mario. Admittedly it’s not just Mario. It’s Mario as a Mafia Boss. But it isn’t what Leone wants at all. To top it off, girlfriend Sarah (Siobhan Gallagher) has had enough of Leone obsessing about his own problems. Leone knows these are all first world problems, but they’re his problems and they’re real to him. And as Leone’s problems mount up, his life starts to unravel. Fired from his job for calling a customer an “annoying twat”, he soon finds himself taking life advice from a sanctimonious Alexa with a mind of its own and the real Super Mario (who isn’t actually called ‘Mario’ at all, may or may not actually be Italian and is quite possibly only a dream). As Leone reaches the peak of despair, he finally opens up. Admittedly to a poster that adorns his bedroom wall. But luckily someone else is listening…..
This is a sharply written and very funny play, that starts light-hearted and and descends into the surreal before rapidly becoming more serious. The sudden switch from the silly world of Super Mario to talk of suicide is jarring and powerful, and played sensitively by Veronesi, who is a very likeable and relatable protagonist. He is supported by a hardworking cast of three who all play multiple roles. Fletcher-Hill is hilarious in all parts, but particularly as a flamboyantly aggressive casting director and as Super Mario himself. Siobhan Gallagher is also entertaining in a variety of roles including the casting director’s dismissive secretary. Jason Imlach also gets plenty of laughs as Leone’s dimwitted colleague, Chris who wears 3D glasses before a film to acclimatise his eyes. And as agent, Mark, who keeps popping up on the phone in strange places, the highlight of which is his trip to Paris, complete with baguette. The set is simple but clever and very Italian(!), made up of stacked pizza boxes that are moved around to create the various different locations. Meanwhile Matteo Iacoboni provides a keyboard accompaniment to suit every scene, including the iconic Super Mario sound effects!
Overall, F**k Freud is a thoroughly entertaining piece of theatre with a serious message at its core. A fantastic first work from Veronesi which also marks the directorial debut of Griffin Mosson. No doubt a duo to watch.
RATING: Raindrops, Whiskers, Kettles and Mittens (aka 4 out of 5 of my favourite things).
F**k Freud runs at the Tristan Bates Theatre from 3 to 7 December 2019. We reviewed the performance on Tuesday 3 December.