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Rachel E Thorn: Lovefool

By | Published on Friday 30 July 2021

I first had a chat with Rachel Thorn back in 2019 when we talked about her edfringe show ‘Between Us’ – an improvised two-hander focusing on a couple’s relationship – I thought it sounded incredibly interesting and our reviewer gave it an excellent write up.

I had every intention of following her work after that. But, of course, the pandemic got in the way a bit. But I was excited when I heard that she would be heading Edinburgh-wards this summer for a run of her most recent project ‘Lovefool’.

I thought it would be great to catch up – so we had a quick chat to find out more about the play and what to expect from her in the future.

CM: Can you start by telling us a bit about the story you tell in ‘Lovefool’? Where does the narrative take us?
RT: Rachel and her husband met in Freshers’ Week 20 years ago, but the stress of trying and failing to conceive turned their marriage septic. Suddenly single and approaching 40, Rachel throws herself into finding a new man. Trouble is, she doesn’t know how to do modern dating. The last time she was on the pull, she was doused in Impulse Body Spray and The Spice Girls were at number one. So she dusts off her Sugar magazines and goes back to the 90s in her hunt for a phwoar-some trouser-shape.

CM: What themes do you explore through the show?
RT: ‘Lovefool’ is a 90s nostalgia fest. I go back to the world of a 90s teen, where ‘Home & Away’ was obligatory viewing and where everything that mattered could be contained in a monthly magazine – Sugar. I celebrate the upbeat tone of the Cool Britannia era, but I challenge the pressure put on teenage girls to meet a limited definition of femininity. The show is also an honest exploration of how infertility can damage a relationship and what we might mean by female empowerment in that context. Ultimately ‘Lovefool’ is about, as Shania Twain put it, be-ing a wom-an!

CM: How would you categorise it in terms of its style or genre? Is it drama? Comedy? Both?
RT: Honestly I’m never quite sure which section of the festival brochure it belongs in! It’s definitely a comedy. Audiences at Brighton Fringe were howling with laughter and shrieking with delight when I whipped out my troll dolls. Mind you, it’s got a suckerpunch too. It carries a trigger warning of “references to IVF” and if that lands with you, you’ll know what I mean when I say it’s a real tear-jerker. I’m not sure I accept the distinction between comedy and drama though – I reckon all good solo shows are hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time.

CM: What was the inspiration for the show? What made you want to create a play about this?
RT: ‘Lovefool’ has been brewing inside me for roughly 25 years! I’ve jettisoned all kinds of things from my teenage years, but I could never bear to part with my Sugar magazines. I just knew that they encapsulated an era and an attitude so beautifully and that one day I’d want to go back there.

CM: Was this something you worked on in lockdown? How has it been, pulling together a show in these pandemic times…?
RT: Lockdown gave me the chance to create ‘Lovefool’. I had roughly sixty live performances of my other shows cancelled at the start of the pandemic, so I got positive and created something new instead. Honestly, touring a show in these circumstances is really tough, but that’s true for all artists. And I would infinitely prefer to dare greatly and be thwarted than not to make the attempt at all.

CM: How has lockdown been for you? To what extent has it affected you and how have you got through it?
RT: There is no aspect of lockdown that suits me! But since ‘Lovefool’ wouldn’t exist without it, I really mustn’t complain.

CM: You did a well received show in Edinburgh in 2019, but this year the festival looks a bit different from its normal massive self: how do you feel about returning? How different do you think it will feel from normal?
RT: I expect we’ll all notice the smaller scale, but I think the core appeal of Edinburgh Fringe remains: great shows in a great city full of great people.

CM: What made you decide to take a show to Edinburgh this time, despite the fact that it’s a much smaller event?
RT: I was very impressed with what the festival and the venues are doing to make it all work and to keep things safe. I’m performing with the Free Festival and they’ve taken brilliant measures to be COVID-secure. They’re only using their larger venues which can be ventilated; they’re ticketing the shows on a pay-what-you-can basis to manage numbers; and there are bigger gaps between performances so that we can clean the space for the next act. I’ve performed in several venues now with safety measures in place and it’s all absolutely achievable. Plus, the show must go on!

CM: Last time we spoke to you, it was about an improv show. Are you still doing improv? Are there any improvised elements to ‘Lovefool’?
RT: You bet! I’m currently touring two improvised shows: ‘Sex, Lies & Improvisation’, which is a dark comedy about why we lie to the people we love, and ‘Mates: The Improvised 90s Sitcom’.

I really credit my improvisation experience with my ability to write comedy. Over the years I’ve performed something like 300 brand new plays that were effectively co-written live. Sitting down in front of a blank piece of paper is much less scary when you realise that!

When I was creating the central character of ‘Lovefool’, I started off improvising, just filming myself flicking through Sugar magazine and commenting on the articles and images until a story emerged. Then I grabbed trolls and Barbies and started interacting with them as the character. Before I knew it, I’d written ‘Lovefool’!

CM: What hopes do you have for the show after the run in Edinburgh?
RT: I’d love to continue the tour and take ‘Lovefool’ to as many 90s-loving audiences as I can. I’m also working on a radio sitcom version of the story.

CM: Do you have any other work in the pipeline? What can we expect from you in the future?
RT: I also write sketch comedy and I’ve been writing for a podcast which features fab impressionists including Rory Bremner, Alistair McGowan and Christina Bianco. I’m looking forward to getting back to writing more sketches when the nights start drawing in again – in between performing ‘Sex, Lies & Improvisation’ and ‘Mates: The Improvised 90s Sitcom’, of course!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after Edinburgh?
RT: I can’t wait to take ‘Lovefool’ to Theatre Deli in my hometown of Sheffield. Bit anxious about performing it live in front of my mum though. It gets quite rude in places and – spoiler alert – the trolls have sex!

‘Lovefool’ was performed at Laughing Horse @ The Counting House at Edinburgh Festival 2021.

LINKS: www.freefestival.co.uk | www.instagram.com/lovefool90s