Eigengrau

Tue 6th – Sat 10th March 2012

reviews

Marion Pragt

at 11:17 on 7th Mar 2012

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Awkwardness, used throughout Eigengrau to comic as well as to dramatic effect, is one of the play’s qualities which makes one understand why Penelope Skinner wrote an episode for Fresh Meat, and Eigengrau’s actors proved to have an excellent feel for it too.

Smooth and witty marketing man Mark was played persuasively by Sam Curry. “Wanker” seemed to be Cassie’s (Bridie McPherson) favourite epithet for him, expressing a combination of dislike and fascination, and the audience felt much the same. After Mark’s initial encounter with dreamy Rose, he starts to fall for Rose’s landlady Cassie. Yet Rose cannot forget Mark and is not interested in the romantic advances of Mark’s friend Tim. In this way - taking place in the apartment of Cassie and Rose, and in the house of Mark and Tim - the play’s two duologues enter into constant dialogue with one another. A clever addition is a chair used as the linking element between the two homes, on which Mark puts his shirt when meeting Rose or Cassie.

Cassie’s active feminism is frequently met with disbelief and mockery. “I didn’t know people still did that kind of thing”, is Mark’s reaction and Rose is immediately reminded of how much her mother was into Germaine Greer and burning bras. However, Eigengrau not only plays with these notions, but also shows how feminist ideals, cultural norms and secret wishes can oppose each other. After Cassie ends up in Mark’s flat, he first reacts to her as John Ruskin seeing a real woman instead of a Greek statue, and subsequently claims: “I’m giving you what you want.” Yet Cassie remains confronted with her own desires that seem to go against everything she believes. One is, then, left with unease as both Rose and Cassie choose, and at the same time undergo their sexual encounters with Mark. Determined at first, Cassie’s expression becomes increasingly defeated as the play unfolds, making her perhaps the show’s most interesting character.

Although the play’s emotional sides are touched upon, they are sometimes left unexploited and the cast is instead especially strong on the comic elements. Phrases like “life can be harsh” or “one has to have faith” arguably are a natural part of young Londoners’ ordinary speech and daily life, yet should perhaps not be repeated so often in one play.

For all its accomplishments, Eigengrau lacks the darkness the title refers to. One such reference became painfully clear towards the end of the play in a scene involving Rose and a high-heeled shoe, although what could have been an excruciating moment, was rendered too understated. In yet another way, the play’s title might refer to Cassie, who is expecting a child, as we are suddenly told. She admits the child will probably take her surname, Gray, which would give Cassie her own Gray - eigengrau.

“A great poet is always timely”, Bernard Nightingale says in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia. Penelope Skinner’s Eigengrau certainly is exciting and timely, leaving the audience with a lot to laugh about and much to recognise, although, one hopes, never quite too much.

Even if the play feels somewhat unstructured and unbalanced, the fast-paced, funny dialogues, good acting and an overall dynamic performance make for a very enjoyable night indeed.

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