I take some solace in the notion that Amedee is clearly a worse playwright than me. For a start, he’s been working on his dramatic masterpiece for 15 years now and still only has two lines to show for it. And he’s so blinkered he’s completely missing the fantastic storyline that’s unfolding in his own spare room. Fortunately for the audience, the that particular ridiculousness is fully realised in Eugene Ionesco’s play in which he appears.
There is something decidedly unpleasant on the other side of the bedroom door and it’s growing enormously. Something ought to be done about it. Neither Amedee nor his wife Madelaine could quite steel themselves to deal with it when it first appeared….and years later, matters are seriously out of hand.
I won’t tell you what it is, for that would spoil the show. But bearing in mind this is a 1960’s East European Absurdist play, what the object represents is a more interesting discussion. A past, unpunished crime? The lumbering power of the state? Their own indecision? All those defeated dreams?
Like many middle-aged couples living in post-war, totalitarian regimes, they are ground down by the insanely relentless pressure of insurmountable problems. They lead oppressed, tiny lives; eat oppressed, tiny lunches; bemoan their lack of free will; and bicker wittily. And the longer they procrastinate, the worse it gets. It’s gruesome enough in the first half. But, having been ushered out of the auditorium at the interval so the stage crew ‘can do things’, we return to find it’s ‘grew some’ more.
Roxana Silbert’s production of Sean Foley’s adaptation of the original play is both weird and wonderful, and bonkers and beautiful. Despite dissing Dudley, the show is still entrenched in its communist culture. It’s deeply hilarious; but the tendency to get its guffaws in all the wrong places is unnerving.
Trevor Fox and Josie Lawrence are perfectly paired. He is blessed with wizard’s hair, boxer’s footwork and a droll northern lilt which makes his self-depreciation all the funnier. Her eyes still twinkle as brightly as in her improv days and her inherently slick gift of the gab turns her telephonist routine into a master class in how to hold numerous conversations at once. Together they exude a genuine air being incarcerated in a worn out marriage. “I’m useless at everything” he admits. “I’m glad you’re coming round to my way of thinking”, she replies.
When they do get their act together, it’s a memorable sequence of almost slap stick comedy, akin to a famous Morecambe and Wise sketch. But then the play opens out and loses it’s focus. Even Absurdity has its boundaries and once the walls of their apartment are breached it feels as though no one quite knows where the show is going.
I suspect this was never going to be a project that would be universally loved. The marmite analogy fits perfectly. But there is more than enough craziness to keep even the most orthodox theatre fan happily engaged; and the central performances are truly excellent.
Photo : Ellie Kurttz