There’s a refreshing lack of sentimentality in Anya (Laura Harling) in Turf, at least when it comes to her blossoming relationship with Eddie (Royce Cronin). But hers is a complicated character, or otherwise simply Machiavellian (if it is possible to be ‘simply’ Machiavellian). It appears, although the text to the best of my recollection does not explicitly say so, that Anya’s house was repossessed. This same house was later purchased by Eddie, and from here, a web of deceit is spun by Anya such that she ends up living back ‘at home’. Added to this, Fisher (Karen McCaffrey), Anya’s mother, returns from the dead as some sort of ghost, poltergeist or presence in Anya’s mind, or some sort of combination – I couldn’t quite decide which. Nor can Fisher, as it goes. Her atheism means she has no frame of reference or explanation as to how she is alive after her own funeral.
Rather more than the usual amount of suspension of disbelief is therefore required, and to appreciate the play fully it is necessary to not over-analyse and immerse yourself in the experience. There is a lot of humour in this play, and not nearly as much confrontation as I would have expected. Anya herself remarks that she was anticipating “more of a fight” in a pivotal scene, and earlier on, there are indications of the unrealistic nature of the play when Anya admonishes Eddie for attempting to respond to grief as though life were a Hollywood movie instead of being far less clinical and clear-cut.
There are several contradictions in the play, not because it is poorly written (I don’t think it is), but because Anya’s personality is so self-focused she will say anything necessary to get her own way, and so I became eventually unsure as to whether any words that poured out of her mouth constituted a true and fair statement. But, in the old adage, the devil is indeed in the detail, and in trying to decipher what on earth really is going on, the audience’s interest in maintained through the various twists and turns in the plot.
I did sympathise with Eddie in the closing scenes of the play – he had clearly been hard done by – and at the same time, he was at least partly, if not arguably wholly, responsible for rushing into things with Anya so quickly in the first instance. I suppose it is, to quote the rock band Queen, ‘that crazy little thing called love’ that makes otherwise rational people conduct themselves irrationally, and there are some wider lessons to be learned in this intriguing show.
I was reminded of an older pupil in my schooldays who had tried to hoodwink me by stating, very rapidly: “What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is mine”. Although I had equally quickly objected, it was another pupil who came to my rescue, quipping; “What’s his is his, mate. And you don’t have anything that he wants!” Not so simple for Eddie, for there is something he wants from Anya, and he pursues it until it ends up hurting him. Maybe some people learn best that way.
The play’s wit is often sardonic, and seamlessly flows from the dialogue, embedded in the narrative, without feeling artificially forced into the conversation in order to solicit laughter. Steadily paced, the open-ended finish left me wondering what happened next. I hasten to add that it is never a bad thing to leave an audience wanting more. A confident and charming production.
Review by Chris Omaweng
“There are some things you just know, without needing proof. Just because you feel them.”
124 Hertford Avenue. A house full of Eddie’s things and Anya’s memories. Eddie has worked hard to get it; Anya refuses to admit she’s lost it. The telly has shattered into a thousand pieces and there are flowers growing in the sink. Something’s got to give.
Written by Irish writer Margaret Perry, Turf is a new play about possession; what we think we own and what we’ve got to lose.
Directed by Ellen Buckley, Trainee Resident Director at The King’s Head Theatre.
22nd to 30th July 2016