Writer: Marius Von Mayenburg (translated by Maja Zade)
Director: Simon Dormandy
Reviewer: Georgina Newman
El Dorado is the mythical South American city associated with gold, greed and opportunity. Marius Von Mayenburg’s Eldorado is a war-torn city, a bourgeois world. A place so ravaged by bombs that it has become every property investor’s paradise, where everyone wants to make riches from the rubble. Not least estate agent come property developer, Anton.
Anton (Michael Colgan) and his wife Thekla (Amanda Hale) appear to have it made: a new house, satisfying jobs, comfortable lives, and now a baby on the way. But when Anton’s vaguely sadistic boss Aschenbrenner (Mark Tandy) discovers Anton has been forging his own signature to sign off documents, he sacks him unmercifully. The world turns upside down for Anton, but to his wife and friends he pretends like nothing has happened. The questions then arise: how long can he sustain this deception and what will be the outcome for all involved?
This black comedy is a sophisticated piece of drama, now being given its UK premiere at the Arcola Theatre and produced by newcomer theatre company, Mongrel Thumb. Under Simon Dormandy’s direction, Von Mayenburg’s Eldorado portrays a heightened distorted reality, where moods change in the blink of an eye, the set remain the same and time seems to pass slowly. It’s not a ground-breaking take on the play but the quality of the cast and the writing makes this a fascinating if sometimes baffling journey to witness.
All concerned are in a permanent state of flux. Thekla, a professional concert pianist and piano teacher, newly pregnant, is made anxious by a war that is deteriorating. She relinquishes her music and career with only the plan to work on her garden and watch it grow, much to the exasperation of her wealthy widowed mother Greta (Sian Thomas) who is also planning to reap the financial rewards of property development from the wreckage with the assistance of her young business adviser/lover Oskar (Nicholas Bishop). And then there’s Thekla’s troubled and seemingly indecisive pupil Manuela (Eva Feiler) who casts Thekla off as a teacher, later returning with her tail between her legs only to find that she is now persona non grata as far as Thekla’s concerned.
Aspirations give way to delusions as the world the characters inhabit becomes more contorted as the constant presence and pressure of war becomes overwhelming. Different layers of reality overlap and the inhabitants of that reality fail to understand each other, and ultimately become psychologically and morally lost in a dream world of their own making. An intriguing aspect is the lack of clarity when it comes to distances. Throughout it is unclear where this urban war is taking place – in a nearby city that they are looking down on, on the other side of the world, or both? Many questions are left unanswered, but this only serves to add to the value of this drama.
Photo: Zute Lightfoot
Runs until 3rd May