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Theatre review: Eigengrau 
11th-Mar-2010 10:12 pm
tragicomedavatar
Disclaimer And That: This review is of a preview performance, in fact only the second public preview. Not that you'd know from the performances - director Polly Findley has opted to give the production a tremendous pace, with the four-strong cast snappily exchanging lines of dialogue; perhaps too snappy at times, as some of the jokes seemed to get buried under the laugh from the gag before. But there's barely any visible signs that they're so early in their run, which is particularly impressive as the production had an early setback - Laurence Fox dropping out early in rehearsals, to be replaced by Geoffrey Streatfeild.

Penelope Skinner's Eigengrau is structured very specifically like a generic Hollywood romcom with its two couples - the good-looking but flawed protagonists, Mark and Cassie (Streatfeild and Alison O'Donnell) and their quirkier friends Tim and Rose (John Cummins and Sinead Matthews, who was in my favourite show of last year, Our Class.) The setup is also straight out of a romantic comedy: Rose has slept with Mark a couple of times, and thinks they're in a serious relationship; in fact she's scared him off and to complicate matters when Mark meets her flatmate Cassie, the two fall for each other. Meanwhile Mark's underachieving friend Tim has fallen for Rose. But this is where the comparisons end as the comedy is a lot blacker than in most Hollywood movies and the characters more complex. Rose's kooky, Phoebe-from-Friends persona is the tip of some pretty serious mental health issues, while Tim seems to have been over-reliant on his grandmother, and rather lost since her death. Meanwhile Mark and Cassie's relationship threatens to go down some worrying routes. Yet for the most part the play remains very funny, whether it's Cassie trying to deal with the fact that she's a staunch feminist who likes to be dominated in bed, or Tim's attempts to make Rose notice him. The lurches in tone could be problematic but Findley and the cast make you barely notice them. I'm not sure the themes came together that coherently for me, but it's certainly entertaining throughout, with characters who feel just one step away from realism and are always interesting. And you can tell Skinner is a good writer because of the amount of times I was slightly annoyed with her for coming up with a great turn of phrase, when I should have thought of that dammit! (Rose's euphemism for someone being pregnant being the prime example.)

Also, Geoffrey Streatfeild, close up? FIT. I hadn't noticed before, but that might be because the last show I saw him in was Pains of Youth so maybe I couldn't see the hotness through the tears of boredom.

Eigengrau by Penelope Skinner is booking until the 10th of April at the Bush Theatre.
Comments 
12th-Mar-2010 01:57 am (UTC)
This sounds good - I notice the original nudity warning changed to sexually explicit! I must say I managed to admire the lovely Geoffrey in (the awful) Pains, and was rather glad to see the cast change. Could you tell me the running time? Im going on the 29th when they are having a post show event
12th-Mar-2010 08:28 am (UTC)
That's right there's no actual nudity, but Geoffrey does get his top off in his first scene so sitting in the front row is quite pleasant. But it was a preview of course so things may change etc etc.

It's advertised as 90 minutes but was more like 80; it started late as previews will tend to but still managed to finish before the announced 9pm finish time. (Like I say a lot of the dialogue is very fast.)
12th-Mar-2010 10:53 am (UTC)
Anonymous
Was he the evil one in Pains?
I have to say I ended up bumping this one off my list for the month since I had a fair few things already booked, but I guess you're kind of recommending it? I might try it in April then.
Ian
12th-Mar-2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
Was he the evil one in Pains?

I think so - to be honest I've made enough of an effort to forget Pains of Youth that there's pretty much nothing left in my memory apart from a load of plastic bags.

I guess you're kind of recommending it? I might try it in April then.

I enjoyed it, certainly; I think some of the themes Skinner was going for (feminism, sexual violence) didn't quite go anywhere but it's entertaining. Bearing in mind though that as demonstrated recently, our opinions sometimes differ quite a bit...
13th-Mar-2010 02:17 am (UTC)
Thanks for the info and Yes Geoffrey was the baddie in Pains

Went to the first preview of Gods Weep in Hampstead tonight. 3 hrs 40. Not recommended despite a great cast - far too long to support the basic idea and I didnt care about any of the characters
13th-Mar-2010 11:17 am (UTC)
Oh dear, I've had a ticket for that for ages. I did worry when I read an interview with the writer the other day that went "oh well at first it was running at about 5 hours, tra la la..." He didn't actually say "tra la la" but it was clear he saw no way in which this could possibly be a problem.
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