The entirety of Adelaide Fringe, and maybe this is the same for Fringe festivals worldwide, has a strange relationship with sex.

Sex is celebrated at Fringe, which could be a progressive and delightful thing, but only certain aspects of it are generally allowed to make an appearance. The titillating parts are front and centre and then there’s plenty of room for the comedy. Rarely is genuine intimacy explored.

Britt Plummer’s Fool’s Paradise includes – as a sheer percentage of its run time – quite a lot of sex. This makes sense, because the show tells the story of a new relationship attempting to blossom across continents and against the terrible odds of COVID restrictions.

The show’s depictions of sex, while quite cleverly handled – sometimes even using coffee cups as proxies for bodies – suffer from the same limitations on sex seen across Fringe. We see the physical frenzy of a new couple, we laugh at the varying sexual positions, but we never feel the magical element of two bodies dissolving into each other – an intimacy that is often central to the process of falling in love.

And this lack of intimacy persists throughout the show’s entirety.

This love-story-against-the-odds is deeply personal, but its telling is too familiar for the audience to sense its reality. The extreme highs and lows of the relationship are communicated through vignettes that echo centuries of love stories.

These tropes are relatable because they’re universal. But the show needs an injection of uniqueness – moments that could only belong to this relationship – to invite the audience into their narrative. This level of detail is a lot to ask from an artist, but choosing to tell a bruising personal story requires intense vulnerability. As it stands, Fool’s Paradise has the outline of truth and lands some satirical blows against romantic stereotypes, but it lacks the emotional texture required of an affecting autobiographical work.

While the intimacy issue creates distance from the story, Plummer’s undeniable clowning brilliance adds vital moments of delight.

In her script, Plummer has set herself a difficult task – moving between narrative, character and performer personas, and then layering mime sequences in between. The distinctions between the personas are sometimes unclear, and directors Jess Clough-MacRae and Paul Westbrook perhaps could have helped the audience navigate by marking each persona with more obvious physical characteristics.

In contrast, the mime sequences are highly refined and effective. Whether Plummer is playing out a sweet dinner for two or a stressful COVID-rule-laden travel sequence, her performance fills the room with pathos and humour, and we feel the spark of true connection.

These bright spots prove Plummer and the story’s potential but, unfortunately, they are too infrequent to rebalance the whole.

Fool’s Paradise is at The Yurt at The Courtyard of Curiosities at the Migration Museum until March 3. 

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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