Reviewed by Flossie Waite
A Unicorn/Untitled Projects production
Playing at Unicorn Theatre until 6th October 2018
For ages 16+
At the very back of The End of Eddy’s sparse set is Hallencourt bus stop. It’s where local teenagers hang out; no one’s going anywhere. In this post-industrial, poverty-stricken town in Northern France, the men all work in the local factory, and one day Eddy will too.
In Eddy’s house, the telly – or rather, tellys, all four of them – are always on. It’s a detail playwright Pamela Carter and director Stewart Laing use to bring Édouard Louis’ best-selling memoir to the stage. Performers Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills both take on the role of Eddy and, using pre-recorded video, Eddy’s mother, and father, and brothers and bullies, and everyone else in the village. Four TVs are mounted on tall stands, their monitors adjusted for each character: one is pulled up to full height when Eddy’s drunk, violent older brother Vincent flickers on screen, another pushed to the floor, Eddy’s head lying horizontally, as he is beaten in a school corridor.
Each morning, Eddy repeats his daily affirmation into the mirror: Today, I’m going to be a man. Each day, he tries to perform his village’s version of what that means: not ‘girly’, and definitely not gay. Though Austin and Mills both play every facet of Eddy – vulnerable, cheeky, thoughtful, savvy – having two performers share the role is a reminder of the duality enforced by his homophobic environment.
Throughout, the action is paused by Austin and Mills to explain or explore what’s happening, contextualising the narrative and offering a transparent look at how the book has been edited and adapted for the stage. The running verbal footnotes eventually become real textual analysis. Eddy’s escape lies in education and the arts, and his journey from childhood home to university halls is cleverly marked by a move away from using the screens, to a sort-of seminar. Austin and Mills begin to read from a well-thumbed copy of the book, thick with Post-It notes, examining the sentence structure as they go.
Though some parts work better than others – there’s an imagined father/son scene towards the end which seems too sentimental for this otherwise cool production – The End of Eddy’s running self-reference feels part of an important attempt to grasp Eddy’s story at the roots and show how wider social inequality can cause prejudice to flower. The End of Eddy finds unconventional ways to look at class, poverty, toxic masculinity, and sexuality. Sometimes funny, sometimes unbearable, always frank, the events depicted are shockingly recent – Édouard Louis is only 25 – revealing just how necessary Eddy’s story is.
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