[2012153] Imperial Fizz

[2012153] Imperial Fizz

Theatre Tours International @ Higher Ground – Main Theatre

6:25pm, Sun 18 Mar 2012

It’s with a sense of relief that I wander into Higher Ground for the last time this Fringe; although Imperial Fizz is the antepenultimate show of the season for me, it represents the last show in the traditional Fringe Block – the final time I have to rush from place to place, the last time I have to worry about cancellations and fighting for seats. I can breath easier now.

The audience is surprisingly thin for this session, though – I wonder whether that’s because of unknown bad press, or just Fringe malaise. Regardless, I take a seat down the front and drink in the stage – an apt term, given the standout presence of the drinks trolley. On come David Calvitto and Beth Fitzgerald – listed in the programme only as The Man and The Woman – and they begin to verbally joust. At times the dialogue feels like a comfortable couple needling each other; at other times, it’s more like a trial, with legal phrasing and appeals to the court.

All the while, they are mixing drinks, then consuming them through wide forced smiles: mixing, drinking, sparring. There’s uncomfortable little hints in their banter that raise questions in my mind: Do they have a son? Did they have a son? What, exactly, is their relationship? Are they actually dead?

…And suddenly, while the soft dance tunes from the twenties played on the radio, Imperial Fizz fell into place for me.

I’m pretty sure that’s not a spoiler… not that anyone’s going to read it, anyway. And, more to the point, not that it’s ever confirmed by the torrent of words coming from the stage. But when there’s a clap of thunder in the background, and the radio turns to static, and The Man and The Woman drop their smiles for the first time and look at each other in expectation… there’s a pretty clear sense that they’re waiting for Death to come to their door.

The text of the play, on first encounter, is quite impressive: it’s chock full of epigrams within little rhyming units and drier-than-dry wit. The huge amount of dialogue, and the speed at which it’s delivered, is most impressive… but a lot of it, in hindsight, feels like it’s only there to pad out the show before The Reveal… but, as I mentioned above, it felt like The Reveal was given away pretty early on. And that’s part of the problem for me: the penny had dropped less than halfway through the play, leaving me to sit through the rest of the performance waiting for the “official” Reveal.

Calvitto and Fitzgerald give undoubtedly good performances, and Guy Masterson’s direction gives the material every chance to succeed, but in the end I’m left thinking that the play suffers under its own weight of verbiage. At the risk of being entirely predictable, Imperial Fizz was a bit of a fizzer.

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