F**k Freud, Tristan Bates Theatre

Leone is not a happy man in the slightest, as he’s twenty five and an unemployed actor, and unable to get his break in an industry that only wants to cast him as an Italian stereotype. He’s also suddenly realised that he’s no longer in love with his girlfriend Sarah and struggling with his place in life, made all the worst by the sudden success that his best friend is having, and he starts to worry that he might be losing his sanity.

Questions of identity and status in life have been the subject matter for many a fascinating work, but unfortunately Fuck Freud isn’t one of them. It touches upon a few interesting ideas, with Leone’s Italian heritage clashing with his career dreams without doubt being the most intriguing, but ultimately it doesn’t have much to say, and the conclusions it comes to are a little pat and obvious.

Problematically Leone doesn’t come across as particularly likeable when it feels like we’re supposed to be fond of the character, he’s mean to his co-worker and rude to the customers, and when he whines about his place in life (despite having just landed a Pepsi advert which is paying him five grand) and his fears that he may end up living a life not doing something he loves, it comes across as a privileged spoilt brat having a minor tantrum. Leone attempts to address that but does so weakly, and that he can’t understand the point of life if you don’t love your career suggests that he doesn’t understand how the majority of people live at all.

With it stressed at the beginning that this is based on writer and lead actor Lucio Veronesi’s real life, there are a couple of moments which are affecting, the break up with his girlfriend being the best example, and his frustrations with casting directors are both amusing and understandable. But many of the other elements are mishandled, and his supposed concern over his possible loss of sanity comes down to him losing a ball, briefly hallucinating that Alexa has spoken to him, and having a couple of weird dreams, and so it’s hard to take his situation that seriously, and that’s made even harder when it’s all resolved rather quickly

It is at least well staged, with a decent score performed by an onstage keyboardist, and two of the actors turn in great performances, with Siobhan Gallagher particularly impressing as she takes on a variety of roles without resorting to cliche. But Robbie Fletcher-Hill is straight out of the Reece Shearsmith school of acting, all over the top shouting and exaggerated facial expressions , it works for Shearsmith as he’s playing characters who are absurd and weird but here it mostly feels forced. Meanwhile Veronesi underplays many a scene, most glaringly when he performs his favourite Shakespeare speech and it’s meant to show us how amazing he is, but instead it only feels rather limp.

Written presumably as a way to showcase his talents unfortunately it does the opposite. Veronesi does have some skill as a comic writer and in the first half there are some funny moments, while one of the dreams towards the end has a great concept, so perhaps it’d be best if he stuck to writing comedy rather than taking on the more philosophical and psychological ideas he only very briefly touches on here, and that way he may find the success he so desperately craves.

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