Written by William Luce, The Last Flapper is a theatrical biography of dancer, socialite and muse, Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the well-known author F Scott Fitzgerald.
The Last Flapper offers Brisbane born actor and writer Rebecca Elise Lamb an opportunity to showcase her talents as actor, singer and dancer.
The theatrical monologue is based on Zelda’s writings, letters and diaries. As a writer and an artist in her own right, she found herself conflicted over her husband’s fame and her lack of recognition. Writing in her diary Zelda says, “I loved the artist in him, but I should have loved the artist in myself, and he should have, also”.
Zelda was born into an aristocratic Southern family, with a strict code of behaviour. A lady must never cross her legs and must always sit upright, never letting her back touch the back of her chair. The southern belle rebelled against her upbringing and was easily charmed by Army Lieutenant, F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The glamorous couple led a vibrant social life in the 1920s, the famed jazz age. However Scott Fitzgerald’s penchant for drinking, domineering behaviour and his habit of using Zelda’s work without crediting her, plunged the once high-spirited Zelda into despair. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia and lived out her final years in a sanitarium.
The performance is set in an asylum on the last day of Zelda’s life. Zelda arrives for her usual therapy session only to find that the doctor isn’t in. She takes it on herself to lead her own therapy session, playing both the doctor and the patient. What ensues is an all too familiar tale of the downward spiral of a celebrity (or wife of) from living the high-life to final tragedy. Not surprising the audience is taken on a roller-coaster ride of emotion.
The convention of Zelda lying on her physician’s couch and counting back from one hundred, along with finding her case files, helped to segue between the episodic vignettes, where her most significant moments were relived.
Rebecca Elise Lamb fitted the role of Zelda well, as she sang and twirled about the stage; her own dance training was evident and the snippets of songs helped bring another layer to what is in essence, a very long monologue. Those who know that Zelda was forty-eight when she died in a sanitarium fire, might have a problem with Lamb playing a role beyond her age category. However, those who don’t, wouldn’t have picked anything out of place, as there was nothing in the content of the play that suggested age.
Director Greg Scurr kept the tone light and the pace up to keep the audience captivated for the most part. The set was contained to the office of Zelda’s psychiatrist, and Lamb utitlised every inch of it, including standing on the furniture, looking through files, and even ripping up files and flinging them across the room.
Performing a one-woman show is hard. Especially one that’s duration is a full-length play and includes interval. In this attention poor i-generation, some prudent editing would have served the piece well. Even though the show was interesting, and Lamb’s delivery superb, I’m sure some audience members breathed a sign of relief when her countdown entered single figures.
The Last Flapper played at the Brisbane Arts Theatre, from 18 – 26 April.