Dublin Theatre Festival 2018: The End of Eddy
TED Talk From A Smalltown Boy
“The End of Eddy,” adapted by Pamela Carter from the book En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule by Édouard Louis, follows the sexual awakening of a young boy in an isolated, homophobic village in rural France. Under Stewart Laing’s impressive direction, Louis’s novel becomes a multimedia theatrical event which honours the novel while pushing at theatrical boundaries. Finn Ross’s extraordinary video design being the jewel in the visual crown, with four sliding screens on individual stands conveying everything from character to text. But the heart and soul of “The End of Eddy” lies in its two captivating performances by Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills, both playing Eddy as well as all other characters. Indeed, it’s to Austin and Mill’s immense credit that the presentational “The End of Eddy,” which often feels like a TED Talk from a smalltown boy given in a public space, is made utterly engaging.
If “The End of Eddy” tones Louis’s novel down for its teenage target audience, it never pulls its punches. Masculinity, bullying, violence, all resulting from working class poverty, are all normalised in Eddy’s crude and unforgiving world from which there is no escape as his teenage years approach. A world where a young, effeminate, asthmatic boy, accused of being the only gay in the village, becomes the object of ridicule and daily bullying simply for being different. Gay sex isn’t the issue, appearing gay is. Even with a beard, a girlfriend to hide behind, the abuse continues. Forcing Eddy to resist his desires even if his body doesn’t want to. Two powerful sequences, The Barn and Today I’m Going To Be A Man, wonderfully capture, in unsentimental fashion, the trials of coming to terms with yourself, and with others refusing to come to terms with you. If, in the end, Eddy must escape this trapped existence to begin life on his terms, drama might prove to be a way to do it.
Through a series of narrative scenes and contextual explanations Carter’s script makes some bold choices. If speaking from an all knowing hindsight can feel like being lectured, with some events and incidents sounding as if written for a HSE report, the presentational tone removes easy sentimentality, lending its events and ideas more authoritative substance. Finn Ross’s video design sees Eddy’s dysfunctional family initially looking like a parody of The Brady Bunch. Yet Ross’s visual acumen smartly opens up the story in moving and profound ways, ably informed by Josh Anio Grigg’s sound design and Zerlina Hughes lighting. A superb Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills bring it all together in two peerless performances which seamlessly shift between character and speaker, performance and direct address. Indeed, their wonderful reimagining of a father and son scene, the central relationship on which everything is determined, is a sheer delight. But that’s what theatre can do - imagine and reimagine in a shared, public space. Which “The End of Eddy” does remarkably well. Speaking from experience to craft a unique theatrical experience, “The End of Eddy” is an uplifting, heartbreaking joy, built around two impressive performances.
“The End of Eddy” adapted by Pamela Carter from the book En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule by Édouard Louis, presented by The Unicorn Theatre and Untitled Projects runs at Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2018