“Lovefool” at the Théâtre National du Luxembourg

Dana Rufolo in Luxembourg
October 2023

Lovefool is a drama that demands attention; it is a feminist cri de coeur and a reminder that corrective action is imperative. A monologue written by Gintarė Parulytė and delivered by London-based Kristin Winters, Lovefool lasts one hour on stage, but the impact on audience members of its terrible story of abuse and despair is potentially limitless.

Parulytė is Lithuanian and lives in Luxembourg; her monologue has come full circle to the Théâtre National de Luxembourg after travelling to London’s Coronet Theatre, the Edinburgh Fringe and Con Tempo Festival in Kaunas, Lithuania during the last six months – evidence of the increasingly international multicultural scene in Luxembourg.

What is intriguing about Lovefool is that the character on stage, Grace, is built out of standard Lego blocks: youthful adult female with little money, caught in the crucible of raging sexual desire, auditioning for an acting role with a vulgar and sexually exploitive male director, abused by her stepfather and abandoned emotionally by her mother, suffering from low self-esteem and an alcohol (i.e. addiction) problem, self-harming and suicidal. She is only recently mindful of her predicament and we see her reliant on an offstage elderly male psychoanalyst, referred to as a “shrink”, to get her act together. And yet while Grace is composed of a stereotypical cluster of personality traits, the character is a new creation, the whole being greater than the parts. Her painful truth shines through the clichés and illuminates the veracity and individuality of her experience.

Why? Certainly, Winters performs Grace in a riveting manner. She is virtually always intensely engaged with her role in a sort of in-yer-face emotional style that is soft and appealing – pleading, were it not for a crusty edge of self-critical irony. Additionally, Parulytė’s character is larger than life. Grace is the recognizable girl next door, but also she’s Gaia speaking for all women not cloistered within a family unit who fend for themselves – sometimes in foreign and even hostile places.

Lovefool incorporates a portfolio of experimental dramatic techniques that keep it refreshingly moving. Autobiographical narrative here is a style, not necessarily the actress’s or writer’s biography. The programme states that Parulytė “yearns to talk about all things painful and absurd, with the hopeful wish to make people feel less alone and more united, as a means to heal, grow, and thrive.” We get that – Grace’s personality traits have been selected by the author. So, that’s interesting – it’s certainly no theatrical biopic.

David Gaspar’s videos and voiceover contribute to the play’s originality. Children were asked what a good woman is, and the responses in Luxembourgish, French or English tell us that women keep house, kiss and cuddle, wash up the dishes, clean, shop … and make good salads. An amusing film recreating sex education being taught to young girls in what is probably a Catholic school shows the friendly, female instructor telling them that God makes sex a happy thing for married people because God is “the inventor of people”.

At the close of the performance, Winters as Grace (but also as Winters) asks the audience members if they have ever been raped or known someone who was, if they had been afraid of their fathers or knew someone who had been. Hands were raised, showing that a crossover of stage space into audience space has been accomplished. In character, she also holds up large posters on which are written confessions of shameful acts or humiliating memories, as her shrink had told her to do:  “Write them down if you can’t say them.”

The body of Lovefool dramatizes the playwright’s conviction that “most of us are wounded children of wounded children” who run away from “broken families” only to create them anew. But the monologue has its playful side. It starts with the question, “What is love?” and ends with Grace’s final statement that she will always love Whitney Huston, Beyoncé and Tina Turner, prompting delighted cheers from the young and mostly female adults in the audience.

It would be interesting to see a Lovefool II featuring the bully theatre director or Grace’s stepfather, in order to find out what little children’s words – whose voices – echo from these men’s bygone days.