Josie Lawrence as Madeleine and Trevor Fox as Amédée. Picture: Ellie Kurttz
Birmingham Rep Studio
AMÉDÉE was originally written by Eugene Ionesco for the French stage in 1954 based on his earlier short story Oriflamme.
Sixty three years on this is a production freely adapted by writer Sean Foley and directed by Rep artistic director Roxanna Silbert in a world premier for the British stage.
Ionesco is a beacon for the genre of Theatre of the Absurd and in Amédée he paints a post-war picture of everyday life showing that war and politics is indeed, absurd. In today’s political climate, Foley makes sure to capture the feelings and confusions in our own time, in an interesting crossover with universal themes of relationships. The play looks at the way in which external factors shape our daily lives and habits and tells us the story of a couple trying to make the best of their given situation.
The play’s central characters are Amédée and his wife Madeleine. They live and work in their small and reclusive flat, perhaps in Birmingham.
Amédée is a writer and for fifteen years, he has been working on a masterpiece. Throughout the years of Amédée’s artistic endeavours, Madeleine has become the sole earner within the relationship as a switchboard operator, her office being a small room in their flat. The play focuses on Amédée’s artistic frustrations and Madeleine’s troubles of keeping the unit together.
Trevor Fox plays Amédée to a terrific degree. With Foley’s stylised and metaphorical script adapted from Ionesco’s original French, Fox perfectly shows the audience what an absurdist performance should look like.
He makes the script his own and adds a beautiful and playful rhythm to Foley’s words, giving a poetic depth to the script. Fox uses inflections and pauses in unique and interesting ways that keeps his delivery fresh and exciting. His mesmerising use of language gives a new and artistic meaning behind the character of Amédée and what his relationship and life stands for.
Josie Lawrence is a local actor and Doctor of Arts, hailing from Old Hill. She is well established in theatre, television and improvisation. With an extensive and varying background, Lawrence’s performance is incredibly strong and together with Fox, they do well to present the conflicts within a relationship when faced with times of struggle.
Lawrence delivers a touching performance as the caring, but resilient Madeleine. She also knows exactly where to place moments of humour, with the ability to provoke huge empathy with emotional characteristics.
Foley gives a testament to the city of Birmingham within his adaptation and celebrates the place of the show’s world premiere. Without explicitly stating that the play is set in the city, it is highly suggested with references to its canal’s, local places and with the supporting cast’s highly stylised Brummy accents. Local actor Duane Hannibal as the Bar Owner is particularly humorous.
Perhaps the third most important character in this piece is the secret that Madeleine and Amédée are trying to hide for the majority of the play. During the first half, references are made towards what, or who, is in the room next door. It is the cause of most their arguments and because we are not introduced to ‘him’ until half way through the play, a glorious anticipation is set up until we finally see Craig Denston’s phenomenal giant puppet. This strikingly obvious image could be a metaphorical representation for many things, and it is the main reason for Amédée’s and Madeleine’s conflict. The puppet is the main feature in the second half, giving way to funny and slightly bizarre sequences when they find that it can no longer belong in their tiny flat.
The style and plot of the piece is definitely unusual. Of course, with the given genre, the audience must tune in to Foley’s playful and metaphorical script to make up their minds as to what the ambiguous images actually represent. With striking images and hidden meanings, it is a treat to watch classic absurdist and stylised theatre, taking classic themes from the genre’s birth in the twentieth century, with a new breath of life from our own experiences of the political climates of today. To 11-03-17