Delving into the tortured mind of Zelda Fitzgerald is an exciting affair - sometimes terrifying and frequently entertaining.
Kelly Burke (Zelda Fitzgerald) in Zelda at Trafalgar Studios, London Photo: Richard Davenport
Kelly Burke, who plays Zelda in this solo, 70-minute show, wrote the play based on Zelda’s writing, and seems confident that projecting the complex world of such a woman can keep the audience gripped.
And essentially she does. Burke’s portrayal of F Scott Fitzgerald’s vibrant yet emotionally fragile wife is intoxicating - her southern drawl is convincing and her charisma knows no limits. At one point Burke shakes off her dressing gown, unveiling a chic pyjama ensemble, and jauntily puts on a hat while describing the couple’s whirlwind existence in New York, which is full of unlimited alcohol and other excesses. Later she dons ballet shoes to demonstrate Zelda’s proficiency en pointe.
The limited costume changes are the only thing really lacking in the show. Confined to her bedroom in a psychiatric unit, it isn’t exactly the ideal setting to showcase the beautiful fashions of the era. Yet, perhaps it would be nice if, when she is scrambling around in a suitcase poring over letters from her husband, she could unearth some of her former finery and give some of the flapper dresses a spin.
Ultimately, Burke leaves it all to her acting ability to convey Zelda’s initial flamboyance, poignant demise and growing frustration that her own writing talent is overlooked. One thing is for certain - after watching this show, plenty of audience members will be checking out her only novel, Save Me the Last Waltz.