Review: THE END OF EDDY *****

THEATRE

THE END OF EDDY

The Studio (Edinburgh International Festival)

August 21 to 26 19.00 August 23 to 26 14.00

***** (FIVE STARS)

One of the most striking things about the action of this non-naturalistic dynamic and almost perversely celebratory show is how recently it all happened. The author of the autobiographical novel on which it is based, Edouard Louis, is still barely twenty six. He wrote it when he was a sociology student between the ages of eighteen and twenty one.

Born in 1992, he spent his childhood in a village in Picardy, in a de-industrialised area of northern France, where he suffered intense homophobic bullying and abuse. His natural body movements and appearance made him unable to hide, and his domestic situation was grim.

In this production two actors play the part of Eddy, who rejects his childhood name when he grows up, and becomes the writer Edouard Louis. The extremely talented and expressive Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills fuse the identity of Eddy, step outside of him to tell us about his background and what they are doing with the book, and become a range of other characters, mostly Eddy’s large family and his school persecutors.

A large performance area faces the audience in The Studio, with an alcove and stage at rea, but foregrounded and in effect thrust at the audience are four screens, able to be raised or lowered, to suggest a threatening bully or a cowering victim, and to express the words of the family and bullies, but always in the form of Alex or Kwaku.

The flow of characters presented in easily assimilated. The two performers take us on a journey which, despite its often harrowing content, they delight to take us on, covering a childhood which Louis says “contains no happy memories” towards a better future, to a school away and eventually to university, and also to learning another side of his father.

(This performance was, in a way, to be complemented by Edouard Louis’ appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival to talk about his second novel, The History of Violence, (Harvill Seeker, 14.99) which deals with his rape and near murder in 2012 by an Algerian pick-up, his anger at the racist coverage of that in the media, and his consequent reflections on the experience of women. Sadly, he has not been able to come to that Festival.)

The production and acting qualities of this show are of the highest. Director Stewart Laing and adaptor Pamela Carter are to be congratulated on an experimental and non-naturalistic approach which seems risky but which works brilliantly, and causes the audience to be taken within the experiences of the drama to a depth that would have been very difficult to achieve by traditional methods.

Great praise must be given to the twin stars, Kwaku Mills and Alex Austin, whose ebullient enthusiasm for sharing this story with us makes us feel we are part of a shared theatrical body for the duration.

The actors bring to our attention the object that is the book/. The contents of book and play emphasise to those of us who may think that here in the West LGBT battles are largely won,

that there is still much to be done, and that prejudices that have been embedded over centuries are not easily swept away.

Tony Challis