A bleak view of manhood and marriage in an Irish town in which everyone is either locked or lost
Lesley Conroy during rehearsals for Eugene O’Brien’s Eden. Photograph: Andy Sheridan
Everyman Palace Theatre, Cork
Eden is a play about self-inflicted sadness, and as it ends, one feels sadder for its cast than for its characters. Lesley Conroy and Patrick Ryan work gallantly to carry the entire play between them in this revived production by Decadent Theatre in association with the Galway and the Roscommon Arts Centres.
The play was first presented at the Abbey Theatre in 2001, and enjoyed national and international respect thereafter – it won best new play at the Irish Times and Stewart Parker award – Eden offers a bleak view of manhood and marriage in an Irish town thickly littered with pubs, in which everyone is either locked or lost.
Playwright Eugene O’Brien writes with compassion for his wandering mouthpieces, hopeful Breda and delusional Billy.
What might be called action is conveyed through competing monologues from a couple whose thinking never coincides as they give their accounts of a night out. A night out is a rare event for newly slender Breda, aiming to retrieve her husband’s errant attention, but it’s just one more night for Billy, a weekend drinker of heroic capacity and unjustified sexual ambition. (No one has noticed how alcohol inhibits performance.)
While confining his script to this couple, O’Brien has peopled their lives with many invisible but intricate personalities. This is heavy going, as Billy’s expletive- ridden vernacular has to indicate their relative importance, while Breda names the streets she walks in despair after the party after the disco, which is after the pub which is after the first – or starter – pub. You have to keep up.
Keeping his cast crucially apart, and assisted by Ger Sweeney’s Klimt-like screen and Mike O’Halloran’s lighting, director Andrew Flynn conducts this play for the voices of soulmates whose souls, sadly, never mate. Until Saturday,