The End of Eddy – Unicorn Theatre, London

Writer: Edouard Louis

Adaptor: Pamela Carter

Director: Stewart Laing

Reviewer: Nina Reece

In The End of Eddy, Edouard Louis grows up queer and poor in Hallencourt, France. At times, Eddy Belleguele’s hometown seems so backwards it feels more fifties than nineties, with its homophobia, toxic masculinity and adherence to gender norms. Still, it is the narrative voice of Eddy, continually persecuted for his ‘ways’; feminine mannerisms and love of Celine Dion, that grounds the novel and delights with tonal leaps from tragic to deadpan.

It is perhaps fitting, that twenty-six-year-old Louis would have his novel adapted for stage at The Unicorn: Central London’s only purpose-built theatre for young audiences. Tonight, ‘Eddy’ (Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills), demonstrated that talent is the perhaps the only substitute for experience. Mills’ lightness and affectation works well alongside Austin’s steeliness and intensity. Mills is fresh out of RADA, class of ‘18, and while Austin’s credits already include both stage and screen one senses much more to come. Both present polished monologues and engage the audience effortlessly, losing none of Louis’ original verve.

Yet, they are hampered by some directorial elements –  not least the four clunky centre stage screens. Malfunctions notwithstanding, the woodiness of pre-recorded monologues is only magnified when placed alongside nuanced performance. The screens obscure much of rural Hallencourt from the mind’s eye, a risk given the symbolic finale. The light design lacks variety, echoes their harshness and clearly, if surprisingly, presents a challenge for an audience of mostly young adults often thought of as being fully dedicated to screentime.

Louis’ The End of Eddy, is a beautiful lament on non-conformity – The Unicorn’s The End of Eddy is an IT experiment that is saved by young talent –  if only they had been unencumbered.

Runs until 6 October 2018 | Image:  Contributed

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