It’s always a bit difficult to keep track of all the theatre reviews when they come out so here’s a master’s post with a collection of what was said about Emilia’s role and acting!
There’s impressive acting all round from the five-strong cast. Confident central turns from Fielding and Fox are bolstered by strong support from Shannon Tarbet as a preternaturally wise 21-year-old student full of the absolute certainty of youth and Adam James as the lone male, idling his life away while the women fret.
Emilia Fox is sexy, sharp and touching as the academic hot-shot who yearns for a loving relationship; Emma Fielding is excellent as the unhappy obsessive wife, and Adam James gives a delightfully rueful performance as her slacker of a husband. There’s strong support too from Shannon Tarbet as the babysitter, a funky young woman with a bright spark about her; and Polly Adams brings great warmth to the play as the wise old mum who makes a mean martini.
It’s a highly intelligent play, but beyond the witty debate it is the wise humanity of the piece that impresses most.
Writer Gina Gionfriddo even offers us a brief history of feminism through Cathy’s lectures, a media-savvy academic played by Emilia Fox.
The classroom moments are fun if you enjoy lectures, but they are very long and a bit unnecessary — to watch a play about feminism do you really need to know about Phyllis Schlafly’s opposition to the equal rights movement? If you’ve been dragged here and feminism just ain’t your thing don’t worry, though, Fox appears wearing only heels and sexy underwear in the second half, so there’s something for everyone.
In a coup for the theatre, this is Fox’s first play in ten years. She sparkles, portraying a sexy, ambitious woman in her early forties. But she covets the life of sweet, seemingly unthreatening Gwen (Emma Fielding) her college buddy and the woman who stole her university boyfriend, married him and became a stay-at-home mum. And conveniently, Gwen’s got itchy feet too.
It’s powered by some great performances: Fox is kind, charismatic and subtly fragile, Tarbet scene-stealingly bratty, Adam James heartbreakingly shlubbish as Gwen’s husband Don. Under Peter DuBois’s relaxed direction, ‘Rapture, Blister, Burn’ gains momentum but never tries to make a crisis out of a domestic drama.
Instead Gionfriddo simply trusts that her play will hold our interest through the batting around of awkward questions. And she’s right.
Played by svelte Emilia Fox with a stateside accent, Catherine has become a hot academic and TV pundit, in chic leather jacket and killer heels. Her books on pornography and the corruption of feminism have got her “the sexy scholar gig”, as Adam James’s Don teasingly puts it.
But when Don and Catherine’s affair gets going, this becomes a properly dramatic piece of work and you can see why Fox took it on, ten years after she vowed to give up theatre for good after getting stinker reviews for her role in a West End revival of Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
Fox stops lecturing and presents a more human and rounded Catherine, whose tragedy is being so lonely and taken to family life that it means taking on a man like Don. Whether she can work through that… well you’ll have to catch the play to find out.