In Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises), writer and director Alex Helfrecht uses live music, dance and a distinctive performance style to portray the debauchery and wild passions that characterise Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel about a love triangle.
Josie Taylor and Gideon Turner in Fiesta (The Sun Also Rises) at Trafalgar Studios 2, London Photo: Bronwen Sharp
Members of the Trio Farouche jazz band are dotted around the performance space and transport the audience to a seedy bar in 1920s Paris favoured by American expats Jake and Robert.
After serving as an ambulance driver in World War I, Jake is establishing himself as a sports journalist, while Robert is preparing to get married. However, their lives are thrown into disarray by the arrival of Lady Brett Ashley, who has gone to great lengths to track Jake down.
As well as the excellent music, Helfrecht relies on symbolism throughout. Jake’s love of bullfighting introduces one of the oldest metaphors for masculinity. But Helfrecht uses the device creatively, often reversing traditional gender roles as the play subverts much of what we think we know about the characters.
As Jake, Gideon Turner exudes the apparent nonchalance of someone who believes he knows more than anybody else. As Lady Ashley, Josie Taylor is a perfect combination of wit and charm, with a terrible desperation evident just below the surface. With his bespectacled earnestness, Jye Frasca is well cast as the dupe of the piece and Jack Holden brings humour to the role of the matador. They all move beautifully during the more physical parts of this multi-faceted and enjoyable piece.