Late one November in 1989, Ultravox fan Barry visits his ex-girlfriend and is faced with a dilemma.. What would Midge Ure do?
80’s music is something of a passion of mine. I probably shouldn’t admit that in public, but I was definitely born in the wrong decade. As a 90’s kid, PJ and Duncan and the Backstreet Boys rang dully in my ears. I missed the decade fashion forgot but Mike Francis Carvalho’s new play Vienna takes us back to that time, complete with clunky VHS tapes and Soda Stream machines.
Annabelle is hoping for a quiet evening when her unstable ex Barry suddenly turns up. Clearly desperate (and sometimes amusingly so) to get back into her bed and her knickers it becomes painfully clear that Barry has problems. Fantasising that he was in new wave band Ultravox, Barry is having trouble distinguishing being reality and fiction. As Barry and Annabelle attempt to work through their problems, a question looms over them: is their relationship worth saving?
Charming and frightening in equal measure Amir Rahimzadeh’s Barry is like a coiled spring of energy as Barry, pensive one second and an eruption of instability the next. Sharon Heywood’s Annabelle is more resigned and weary of Barry’s eccentricities making for a very realistic and wounded portrayal.
Two handers like Vienna live or die on the chemistry between their leads, and Rahimzadeh and Heywood have great chemistry that makes a past relationship between the two characters immensely believable.
Director illy includes some innovative moves whilst staging Vienna, the use of lighting to show the character’s inner thoughts is a shrewd move, especially the relative darkness of the lighting to show Barry’s fractured state.
It is unfortunate that the whole doesn’t quite hang together for me. Parts of the story left me confused with Barry’s mood swings. Personally, I would like to have seen Vienna embrace Barry’s instability and his delusion of being a member of Ultravox a bit more – it has a great dramatic potential. Ramimzadeh is funny and great when indulging in his inner rock-star and something that was ripe for development. Despite the sweltering heat, the audience were lapping up the various pop culture references and digs.
Whilst it’s very tempting to say that Vienna means nothing to me, far from that, it is a diverting excursion in one man’s strange mind and the strain on a relationship. Annabelle’s repeated imploring for Barry to seek help betrays a backstory of struggle we’re only just becoming privy to. For those with a sense of nostalgia, Vienna will resonate stronger and with a few tweaks will become an even stronger piece.
The Fiction Stroker gives Vienna three strokes out of five: