Friday 13 December 2019

Theatre: Eden comes up smelling intensely of roses

A welcome revival of a sharp contemporary play at Bewley's Cafe Theatre enchants Emer O'Kelly

Stephen Jones and Seana Kerslake in 'From Eden' at Bewley's Cafe Theatre. Photo: Futoshi Sakauchi
Stephen Jones and Seana Kerslake in 'From Eden' at Bewley's Cafe Theatre. Photo: Futoshi Sakauchi

Emer O'Kelly

Stephen Jones's From Eden has been given a revival at Bewley's Cafe Theatre at Powerscourt in Dublin; and it's richly deserved.

It's a slice (well, two slices) of life of two unhappy people, lost in a world of frantic gaiety at a New Year's Eve party, where they separately take refuge in a bathroom that's under renovation.

Alan has no purpose in life other than to survive the buffeting his spirit has taken in a four-year long search for "meaning". (No, it's NOT boring, due to superb characterisation and writing).

Eva has a very definite purpose in life for the immediate future. That purpose will spread a great deal of misery, but as the play progresses it becomes clear that Eva has every reason to feel vindictive: she is way beyond the simplicities of self-pity.

From Eden is as sharply contemporary as anything I've seen in its compassionate and intensely empathetic reading of the complexities of modern life. The situations in which the two characters find themselves have been a common reality for more than 30 years in our society, but the particular psychological damage portrayed is as tragically fresh as this morning's newspapers.

Jones and Seana Kerslake play with such vulnerability that not even the most hardened and cynical observers could turn their backs on the tiny seeds of hope that they plant in each other's souls.They are the seeds which we must hope, however desperately, can take hold in this terrible, uncertain world of ours with all its emotional perils.

They are directed as before by Karl Shiels in this Awake and Sing production, and he does Jones proud as actor and author, and Kerslake equally proud in her role as Eva. The excellently realistic set is by Katie Davenport, lit by Eoin Stapleton.

'Not even the most cynical observer could turn their back on the tiny seeds of hope they plant in each other's souls...'

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