After the great summer of Gatsby, the stream of things Fitzgerald-related shows no sign of slowing. Ahead of a Trafalgar Studios transfer for Kelly Burke’s one-woman show about the life of Zelda Fitzgerald comes Spilt Milk’s production of Caroline af Petersens’ play about the couple’s turbulent marriage.
Covering a large amount of biographical ground, from the couple’s initial flirtation through to Zelda’s spell in a clinic and Scott’s eventual death, the play feels cluttered and bitty. Too often scenes get bogged down in awkward exposition, with characters feeling the need to clarify the exact nature of their relationship to one another for the audience’s benefit. Nicola Rockhill’s production’s only emphasises this choppiness of tone. The many short scenes are interspersed with a series of silent movie inserts but these only slow the pace of the piece down further while attempts to create something of the glow and glamour of the 1920s just draw attention to the budgetary limitations. Sherry Newton is perky and girlish as Zelda but never really nails the tragedy of the character, a woman of artistic ambition forever overshadowed by her more celebrated husband. In the few quiet moments she shares with Francis Moore’s understated Scott there is chemistry between them, but the production never really allows this to develop.