An emo­tive end­ing

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Edinburgh Festival Theatre Reviews - Re­viewed by Mark Brown

THE END OF EDDY The Stu­dio Ends to­day

WHAT GIRLS ARE MADE OF Tra­verse Theatre Ends to­day

THE PRIS­ONER Royal Lyceum Ends to­day

THE End Of Eddy is the lat­est theatre work by the suc­cess­ful col­lab­o­ra­tive pair­ing of writer Pamela Carter and au­teur direc­tor Ste­wart Laing. A co-pro­duc­tion by Lon­don chil­dren’s com­pany the Uni­corn Theatre and Laing’s own, Glas­gow-based Un­ti­tled Projects, it is adapted from the au­to­bi­o­graph­i­cal first novel by ac­claimed, young French author Edouard Louis.

Premier­ing at the Ed­in­burgh In­ter­na­tional Fes­ti­val (EIF), it traces the im­pov­er­ished and trou­bled early years of Eddy Bel­legueule (Louis’s orig­i­nal name). Eddy is white, work­ing­class and gay. He was brought up in the un­pre­pos­sess­ing Pi­cardy vil­lage of Hal­len­court, from which he es­caped, by way of ed­u­ca­tion, to Amiens and, then, Paris.

The tale is told by two young ac­tors, Alex Austin (who is white and bears a very dis­tinct re­sem­blance to Louis) and Kwaku Mills (who is black). They per­form the roles of Eddy, his fam­ily and tor­men­tors on a stage that is bare save for a bus shel­ter, a bin and four in­ge­niously in­te­grated video screens, which are mounted and move­able on metal posts.

Like Louis’s de­ci­sion to write the story as a novel, the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the char­ac­ter of Eddy by two ac­tors plays neatly with ideas of the con­struc­tion of truth. How­ever, the de­pic­tion of Eddy’s early life, sur­rounded by vi­o­lence, racism and toxic no­tions of mas­culin­ity (com­plete with their at­ten­dant misog­yny and ho­mo­pho­bia), car­ries a ter­ri­ble ve­rac­ity.

Acted with a win­ning com­bi­na­tion of em­pa­thy, dex­ter­ity and vi­tal­ity, the piece is hu­mor­ous and chill­ing by turns. It is also a lit­tle too ab­sorbed in its own metathe­atri­cal­ity at times (as in the di­rect read­ing from the novel to­wards the end).

None­the­less, this is a pow­er­ful, ab­sorb­ing and in­ven­tive piece which should be seen, in par­tic­u­lar, by any­one who is, or ever was, young and gay.

There’s more au­to­bi­og­ra­phy in What Girls Are Made Of by lead­ing Scot­tish theatre-maker Cora Bis­sett. Di­rected by the Tra­verse’s out­go­ing artis­tic direc­tor Orla O’Lough­lin, it is, ef­fec­tively, two (very strong) plays, rather than one.

The first weaves Bis­sett’s Fife child­hood into the story of her briefly suc­cess­ful, but ill-fated, rock band Dar­ling­heart and her sub­se­quent en­tan­gle­ment in the tawdry web of the mu­sic in­dus­try. The other, fol­low­ing, it has to be said, a some­what shud­der­ing gear change, is a coura­geously can­did and deeply mov­ing ac­count of Bis­sett’s har­row­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of mis­car­riages and, ul­ti­mately, a suc­cess­ful preg­nancy.

Per­formed on Ana Ines Jabares-Pita’s fine, rock gig set, Bis­sett’s en­gag­ingly nar­rated and drama­tised au­to­bi­og­ra­phy is in­ter­cut with nicely per­formed songs (rang­ing from PJ Har­vey to Dar­ling­heart). The drama­ti­sa­tions are helped along beau­ti­fully by the ex­cel­lent, of­ten hi­lar­i­ous ac­tor-mu­si­cians Grant O’Rourke and Si­mon Don­ald­son (who play an ar­ray of char­ac­ters, from Bis­sett’s par­ents to un­scrupu­lous band man­ager Dirk Devine). Mu­si­cian Su­san Bear (on drums) chips in with a lit­tle act­ing, too.

What it lacks in its some­what awk­ward struc­ture, Bis­sett’s piece makes up for in its emo­tive hu­man­ity. Warm, funny, achingly sad and won­der­fully mu­si­cal, it is lit­tle sur­prise that it is bring­ing au­di­ences to their feet.

In an­other the­atri­cal vein en­tirely is The Pris­oner, which is writ­ten and di­rected by the great el­der states­man of world theatre, Peter Brook, and Marie-He­lene Esti­enne, and pre­sented on the EIF pro­gramme by Paris-based com­pany Theatre des Bouffes du Nord. Cre­ated “through a se­ries of work­shops in var­i­ous coun­tries” it tells the story of a young man who, be­ing guilty of pat­ri­cide, is sen­tenced to sit in a desert fac­ing a prison.

The crime is riven with moral com­plex­i­ties. The young man mur­dered his fa­ther (who was hav­ing sex­ual re­la­tions with his own daugh­ter, the young man’s sis­ter), not be­cause he was out­raged by the in­cest, but out of jeal­ousy.

In turn, the daugh­ter de­nies that her fa­ther raped her, claim­ing in­stead that the sex­ual re­la­tions were a con­sen­sual re­sponse to the death of her mother.

The vi­o­lent, phys­i­cal pun­ish­ment meted out to the young man and the un­usual sen­tence he re­ceives sub­se­quent to it, speak to Brook and Esti­enne’s in­ter­est in tra­di­tional, non-West­ern nar­ra­tives and con­cepts of jus­tice.

This fact is em­pha­sised by the fram­ing of the story by an el­derly, white, English nar­ra­tor in a play that is per­formed by ac­tors from Sri Lanka (the pris­oner), In­dia (his sis­ter), Mali (his un­cle) and Mex­ico (a vil­lager per­turbed by the pres­ence of the pris­oner, who is, sig­nif­i­cantly, an un­wanted im­mi­grant).

A spar­tan piece (both dra­mat­i­cally and vis­ually), the play feels like (what it surely is) a care­ful dis­til­la­tion of var­i­ous nar­ra­tives down to an al­most med­i­ta­tive, slow-burn­ing 67 min­utes of theatre. It is beau­ti­fully acted, in­tel­li­gently chal­leng­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing; of­fer­ing more, per­haps, af­ter one has left the theatre than dur­ing the per­for­mance it­self.

Pol­i­tics and moral­ity are also to the fore in It’s True, It’s True, It’s True (Un­der­belly Cow­gate, ends to­day). Played by a fine cast of three young women, it is a pow­er­ful and in­ven­tive stag­ing of the 1612 trial of Agostino Tassi for the rape of the painter Artemisia Gen­tileschi. Un­der­ground Rail­road

Game (Tra­verse, ends to­day) is nei­ther as deep, nor as orig­i­nal, nor as rad­i­cal as it promised to be in its con­sid­er­a­tion of the racial his­tory of the United States.

The bril­liant ac­tor, direc­tor and pro­ducer Guy Master­son cel­e­brates his 25th year on the Fringe this year. Only he could get away with A Christ­mas Carol (Assem­bly Ge­orge Square, ends to­mor­row) in Au­gust. It is, typ­i­cally of Master­son, a gor­geously per­formed piece of solo theatre.

Kwaku Mills in The End of Eddy Photo credit Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.