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Aqua Tofana: A comical and fascinating tale of how one's logical decision making, can be drasticall

Updated: Dec 22, 2022

Review by Dian Chieke

Photo Credits: Caroline Raunch (@carolinerauch)

Aqua Tofana debuted on Thursday the 24th of November. As I walked into Alec clegg studios inside stage@leeds, I was greeted by a riveting scene. The studio was dimly lit by a red and purple hue cast from the lights above, giving prominence towards the left side of the stage where wine glasses and liquor bottles littered the floor. It was a vulnerable and nuanced atmosphere, as it was paired with songs of The Shangri Las ‘remember’, Nancy Sinatra’s ‘these boots are made for walking’ and Patsy cline’s ‘crazy’.

The stage was presented as if it was the end scene of the play, with the feeling of something troubling had happened. The Aqua Tofana painting above the sofa sat like a beacon, serving important clues. This scene display only served to pique my interest even more as I wondered how it all connected to the story.

Aqua Tofana centers on the story of Lola (played by Ruby Dean), a master's student who finds herself in a bit of a rut. Struggling to help pay the bills through her part-time job produces relationship troubles with her fiancé Henry (played by Raf Clays), who perhaps holds some resentment towards her. However, Lola is encouraged by her loyal and spirited friend Jovie (played by Katie Meara).

Aqua Tofana brings life to a comical and fascinating tale of how one's logical decision making, can be drastically distorted when it comes to love.

After soaking ten minutes in the ambience, the play began. A sudden switch-off of the lights was followed by two white spot-lights on the left and right side of the stage. As Lola and Jovie sat on each side of the stage speaking on the phone to one another, it was apparent the production team had cleverly utilised the one stage into two separate spaces, with the right-side doubling as Jovie's bedroom and a bar with a set of drawers.

The show begins with Jovie expressing her disdain towards Lola’s fiancé Henry. It is clear by this first interaction that Henry is in Jovie's bad books. Lola’s later interaction with Henry, who once again cancelled on their dinner date for a ‘client’ of whom he wouldn’t specify, confirms for the audience that he very much belongs there, leaving us with a sense of pity for Lola, who only wants to repair her relationship with her fiancé and get married to the man she still loves. Because of this, she puts up with more than most of us would.

Jovie on the other hand is quite the opposite. Although jobless with no obvious goal in her life, Jovie is a happy-go-lucky girl without a care in the world, attracted to finding new potential partners, drinking wine and living her life as she wants. She enjoys the simple pleasure of doing nothing.

The comical dialogue between Jovie and Lola is marvellously written by Niko Burns. Although their personalities differ greatly, the two extremes seem to balance each other out. Lola’s frustration at Jovie provides for some entertaining moments. The depiction of Jovie's relentless and supportive friendship is heart-warming even if she is a little ‘eccentric’.


The music used throughout the show was intriguing, selected to create an engrossing effect. The music gave the audience an insight into Lola’s mind frame, giving us a clue to the outcome of her actions, an interesting way to relay the story.

At some point in the play, there is a time end point where the studio was engulfed by the sound of a ticking clock, whilst being submerged in on-and-off flashing lights. It did well to intensify an important moment in the plot and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My only critique of the show comes from the sometimes-rough transition in music between scenes, which I thought a drifting in and out of the song would have complimented the scene transitions more, instead of the abrupt ending of a song before a new scene. Nevertheless, the music choice was solid and complimented the storyline.

Throughout the story we see changes in Lola’s personality, starting as the sweet and reserved girl whose fallen victim to an unhappy relationship, watching her slowly turn into the very person that was causing her so much stress at the start of the show. This becomes very apparent when she speaks the same words to Jovie that Henry once said to her, as she becomes easily irritable, argumentative, self-serving and sassy, all while her poor friend Jovie remains a sturdy friend. Jovie’s response to Lola near the end of the show also highlights Lola’s change in character for the audience, which ends with Lola no longer a victim, but the creator of victims.

Henry, although rarely seen, supplies the audience as a solid character. Raf plays the role of the resentful fiancé well. I commend them for their double role as the detective's partner, which created some comedic moments that wouldn’t have happened without them. Such as their realisation of the detective's ‘close’ relationship with Lola.

The detective was also well played by Austin Keane, embodying the awkward and nervous energy of the detective. He couldn’t help but create laughs through his inept demeanour that came across rather endearing.

I must say, the ending for me had a delightful curve. I say curve because it wasn’t exactly a plot-twist but it was completely different to how I envisioned the ending.

We start the show rooting for Lola, but by the end we understand that the Lola we cared for is no more and beyond saving. Even so, it is not hard to empathise with her, as I'm sure most women, even if only a little, can understand Lola’s frustrations - even if her response is ‘a bit’ dramatic.

The show included sensitive subjects such as drug abuse and domestic issues, nevertheless I felt the actors did well to create a relaxed atmosphere, making the subjects seem less intense than they were.

Overall, the play was a hit. It was clear that the production had thought meticulously about the details with the well-designed set up. The actors were phenomenal in their ability to create comical moments in rather serious scenes. Additionally, the music production was most enjoyable and creative. All in all, if you get a chance to see it, SEE IT.

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