AMEDEE: Eugene Ionesco. Freely adapted by Sean Foley
Birmingham Rep, to 11 March
Runs: 2h 5m, one interval
BO: 0121 236 4455
Review Alexander Ray Edser, 01 03 17<
A terrific performance; a n important contribution to Ionesco debate
There was a time when Absurdist plays (including those of leading exponent Ionesco) were thought to be about nothing, and that was the point. A sort of nihilism reflecting the age. Some people are now re-appraising this view. Roxana Silbert’s excellent production is a major step along this path.
Watching this play, the bleak view of two people trapped in a relationship as small as is the room in which they are also trapped, you cannot but be struck by the richness of meanings. Drop, for a moment the label ‘absurdist’ and think, say, in surrealist terms, viewing it as a world in which (in Amedee’s words) dreams and reality merge. Then you see a world rich in symbols, the richest of which is the famous growing corpse.
The corpse accrues meanings as the play progresses, the married couple’s stagnant relationship, then their guilt that imprisons them, later the things that holds them together and gives them meaning, later still it has the power to free them once they free it. View Amedee and his wife as representations of a nation or of our society, and everything moves on to another level.
This is great writing, unusual, a little out of fashion; the Rep must be congratulated for revealing it afresh for us.
Josie Lawrence and Trevor Fox (Madeleine and Amedee) give us impeccable performances. This is not easy material to handle, but they present it with ease and a dark humour that draws us into their world inside which it all seems so logical. We find ourselves empathising with them, sharing their fear of the inexplicable that is overwhelming them. Superb.
Roxana Silbert has enabled the play to find its own way. It is full of theatrical challenges which are encompassed with style. Settings are simple but evocative (Ti Green) with atmospheric music and sound by Dyfan Jones – what joy when the corpse sings. And Craig Denston’s disturbing realisation of the growing corpse is wonderful to behold.
Sean Foley’s adaptation is true to the original and gives the play freshness. Ionesco will have been writing about different times, this is a play for today. The issues, for good and bad, are universal and timeless.
Josie Lawrence: Madeleine
Trevor Fox: Amedee
Jamie Samuels: Postman / Amedee 2 / American Soldier / Ensemble
Leah Walker: Caretaker / Madeleine 2 / Mado / Ensemble
Duane Hannibal: Bar Owner / Policeman / Ensemble
With Community Cast
Director: Roxana Silbert
Designer: Ti Green
Lighting Designer: Chahine Yavroyan
Composer and Sound: Dyfan Jones
Movement Director: Joyce Henderson
Casting Director: Nadine Rennie CDG
Corpse Puppet: Craig Denston