The End of Eddy review: A staggering novel brought affectingly to the stage

Dublin Theatre Festival: Kwaku Mills and Alex Austin are engaging as Édouard Louis’s autobiographical character


Project Arts Centre
★ ★ ★ ★
In Édouard Louis's staggering debut novel, an autobiographical account of growing up gay and abused in the impoverished northern French town of Hallencourt, explanations elude the suffering young Eddy: Why is he different? Why is he singled out for torment? Why are men here so quick to drunkenness, violence and homophobia? In Pamela Carter's lively stage adaptation for the Unicorn Theatre and Untitled Projects, Eddy has a sharper vision steeped in sociology and theory, explaining things as he goes.

Two engaging and energetic performers, Kwaku Mills and Alex Austin, share the role, their faces representing other characters – Eddy's aggressive father, his bitter mother – on four television screens. Under Stewart Laing's supple, inventive direction, they can both slip into the narrative and stand apart from it with additional commentary, as though delivering an earnest and innovative book report. Shame, expectedly, is a running theme – of poverty, sexuality, abuse and self – but, aimed first for a teenage audience (and open to all), the show is more cautious about how it finds a place in Eddy's erotic imagination.

More intriguing is where it departs from the novel, utilising theatrical licence to invent tender and consoling scenes. That may seem like wish fulfilment, or a bid to discover teachable moments, but it is something more affecting: the possibility of an alternative. As he transforms into Édouard, also through performance, that is Eddy’s great triumph.

Runs until Saturday, October 13th