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A CurtainUp Review
--- Eden in London, reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge ---
Conor McPherson, author of the hit play The Weir directs and has achieved amazing conviction from his cast of two, Don Wycherley and Catherine Walsh. Together they relate with such richness the tales of their friends in their village, so that at then end of two hours, we feel these people are our old friends. The rhythm of their words is hypnotic, the litany of bars in the town, "Brophys, Flanagans, the Mack Bar" is as intoxicating as the drink sold there. It is hard to listen to these accents of Southern Ireland with dialect and Irish rhyming slang thrown in to puzzle the English audience and fully understand. "I got her a Vera Lynn and Supersonic" (Gin and Tonic). There were certainly moments when I felt I needed surtitles. But you will get the gist of what is being alluded to, even if you do not understand the exact words. One word that will not challenge you is Billy's favoured adjective, the seven letter "f" word. His text is peppered with it like spots on a polka dot dress, evidence of how limited he is in expression.
Eden is an analysis of a failing marriage. Billy (Don Wycherley) and Breda (Catherine Walsh) have been married ten years, have two daughters but their marriage has been without sexual relations for some time. Breda has lost a lot of weight in an attempt to revitalise her husband's interest in her. Her sexual fantasies are centred around a trashy novel, Angelique and the Sultan. Billy who describes himself as "strapped, saddled and married" fantasises on a real life teenager, Imelda, the daughter of one of his friends. Breda is pinning her hopes on a night out, with her new figure to reinvigorate Billy's interest in sex. Billy is planning how to lose Breda and make it with Imelda. Breda finds drunken sex with another man while Billy makes a fool of himself in front of everybody.
Wycherley stands, handsome but with thinning hair, his legs apart, hands in his pockets, telling tales of the Mouse, the Badger, the Banana O'Briens and his friend who is nicknamed James Galway because of his euphemistic "golden flute". As the play progresses, so does Billy's state of intoxication, he is "Micky" (Micky Monk = drunk) and starts to slur his words. Breda too becomes befuddled with drink, her head swaying, her eyes failing to focus, she blinks, nods her head like one of those dogs on the parcel shelf of a car and gets confused. She is a pathetic creature, in her denim jacket and big shoes, aching to be loved.
The set is depressing, covered in the same monotonous, cheap, brown patterned carpet on all surfaces, walls, floors trapping these characters in a dung coloured existence. Lighting changes from home to bar. It is a play, which gives an insight into sexual fantasy, as Billy sees himself in a painting of people gathering hay with Imelda as the willing milkmaid, while Breda imagines joining the harem to be pleasured by the Sultan. We never learn what Billy does for a living, only how he spends his leisure hours and his income. Billy and Breda are locked in unhappiness because of their lack of education and resources, his unwillingness to admit that there is a problem, her inability to compete with his addiction to alcohol and to move on.
Brilliant as the performances are, maybe the theatre going public is ready to move on from yet another Irish monologue play. A very expensive shiny card flyer with a crumpled picture of a classical Adam and Eve painting has hyped Eden as Best Play, Best New Writing, Damn fine, comic vivid and true, Sex, Lies and Fantasies. I fear that anyone buying tickets on the basis of that flyer will probably be disappointed in the same way that Breda is disappointed that her change of appearance is not the answer to her happiness.
Mendes at the Donmar
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2003 Movie and Video Guide
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam
Somewhere For Me, a Biography of Richard Rodgers
The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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