Theatre Review: Solpadeine is my Boyfriend
OverviewDirector: Gina Moxley
Pros:It is written in a highly distinctive fashion, contains a pitch-perfect performance from Preissner and its oddball humour helps offset the darker themes at the heart of the plot.
Cons:Its rhyming dialogue doesn’t always flow seamlessly; some theatre-goers may at times become frustrated and distracted by its lack of a conventional plot structure and constant shifting between different ideas and topics.
An idiosyncratic one-woman show in which dark topics such as failed relationships and emigration are tackled in a humorous fashion.
In theatre, as in all art forms, there is a fine line between plays that are quirky as opposed to those that are merely irritating and pretentious. Thankfully, Solpadeine is my Boyfriend manages to achieve this quality without being unbearably irksome in the process.
Solpadeine is a one-woman show set in contemporary Dublin and runs to roughly an hour in length. Written by and starring Stefanie Preissner, it evokes Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind with its warts-and-all focus on the protagonist’s two-year relationship with Stephen. Like Eternal Sunshine, it deals largely with the lows of this dubious romance, while consistently maintaining a tongue-in-cheek tone throughout. And the failure of the relationship is announced at the outset, thus allowing the mild sense of doom that pervades the play to complement the gallows humour that Preissner favours.
Though the failed relationship serves as its focal point, Solpadeine explores an array of diverse topics, with emigration and youth unemployment also being among its recurring themes. Consequently, as is noted in the play’s press release, Solpadeine is ultimately ‘about change’ and the character’s struggle to adapt to it.
It also takes the rather interesting approach of being written entirely in rhyme. Shakespeare it is not though. It has a kind of freewheeling structure owing to its ostensible lack of plot and refusal to limit itself to one subject, with a style that is also reminiscent of Seinfeld to a degree, given its humour-inflected fixation with the minutiae of everyday life and in particular, the eponymous pharmaceutical Solpadeine.
Some may find this innovative approach tiresome at times, and it doesn’t always work. There are a few occasions where Preissner’s rhyming seems a little too forced – a line about a train from Cork to Dublin taking two-and-a-half hours and ‘five if it snows’ springs to mind. Although there is possible scope to argue that these words add to the kitsch elements that characterise the play – the cheesy ’80s-style music on which it closes being a classic case in point – such lines, in truth, seem ill-conceived. However, for the most part, the rhyming is not as off-putting as it would have been in less capable hands, thus justifying its idiosyncratic presence throughout the play.
Its distinctive wordplay aside, the play’s main asset is Preissner herself, whose strong performance exudes charm and affability in equal measure. While its subject matter touches on dark issues such as depression, it never descends into the type of excessive melodrama that dogs too many modern-day comedies (Scrubs being a prime example). She recounts the story of her failed relationship with a level of natural wit that elevates her warm, friendly persona and ensures that Solpadeine is ultimately the antithesis of a sob story.
Yet there remains a hint of underlying melancholy and raw vulnerability in the performance, which is punctuated by the tone of genuine regret in Preissner’s voice and the flickers of sadness she occasionally fails to mask, in spite of her invariably deadpan countenance. These subtle, sombre instances are boosted by the intimacy that the Project Art Centre’s small theatre provides, while the minimalistic stage design accentuates and consolidates the feeling of being totally inside the obsessive protagonist’s head for the duration of the action.
‘Sometimes I start to think I think too much,’ says Preissner’s character towards the end of the play. And the line encapsulates the mad, exhausting and frequently funny manner in which Solpadeine unfolds.