Eigengrau by Penelope Skinner is a play about two sets of 20-somethings in London living what at first seem very 20-something lives. Mark is a rich and successful young professional, living with his friend Tim who has just lost his grandmother who he used to care for. In the other flat, we have Cassie, a professional feminist, and her new flatmate Rose, who believes in unicorns, numerology and Signs.
The play talks about what it’s like to try to connect with people in the busy metropolis that is London, with its somewhat ups and very clear downs, where people get hurt and communication can be poor, and caring is considered unfashionable. Even though the play is already eight years old, the references still feel current and relevant.
The first act did drag on a bit. The writing is very snappy, and it seemed a bit slow, and I noticed a few missed technical cues. The actors were a little quiet, and it took them a while to warm up. It did get increasingly better during the act when the more extreme parts of the characters start coming to the surface. But there were just too many pauses.
However, the pace and delivery picked up significantly in the second act. The cast were engaging and in it, and the storytelling really worked. There are a couple of fairly intense moments in the second act that can be very difficult to stage, but it was solved well with good lighting and sound effects. I particularly enjoyed Rose’s solo scene where everything came crashing down for her, and from then on you finally engaged with Rose.
The penultimate scene with all four characters was by far the strongest in the entire piece. It was good to see the four characters finally all interact with each other and seeing the strength and weaknesses of all four. Rose had a grounded quality that was delightful to see, and it suggests that Robyn Wilson might fare better with a more grounded, earthy character than the scattered Rose. But the scene was fully owned by Joseph McCarthy, whose Mark cracked and showed him for the real human being he actually was. It’s difficult to not make Mark a caricature, but the way the actor portrayed him really worked, particularly in this scene. I found myself wanting him to be a bit more of an asshole earlier, but at the same time, when he finally showed true feelings it may not have been believable, so I understand the choices completely.
There’s no way around it, the highlight of the show from start to end was Katharine Hardman as Cassie, an extremely talented and engaging actress who had a bit of a Kerri Russell quality to her. She constantly drew your attention, and the journey the character went on was interesting and believable. I have no doubt we’ll see Hardman in bigger and greater things in the future, she was clear, interesting and you believed the conflicts in her.
I also very much enjoyed Joseph Holroyd as Tim, he’s a fine actor, but I couldn’t help think that he didn’t quite fit the character, and I couldn’t quite believe him as being a bit of a loser, despite the ill-fitting clothes. When Tim was dressed up, I felt Holroyd could just as easily have been playing Mark.
All in all, it was all well done, but it felt like it could be so much stronger and engaging, and that’s just a pity.
Review by Tori Jo Lau
Eigengrau / [ay-gen-gr-ow ] – noun. intrinsic light; the colour seen by the eye in perfect
In a city where Gumtree can feel like your closest friend, looking for the right person can lead you to all
the wrong places.
Rose believes in true love and leprechauns.
Cassie believes in the power of change.
Mark believes in the power of marketing.
Tim believes in nothing at all.
New Light Productions’ 2018 revival of Penelope Skinner’s whirlwind of a play dives into four London
lives, swinging from flat to flat, karaoke bar to Eastbourne Pier, asking us what we really believe in, and
what we are prepared to sacrifice to get it.
31st July – 11th August at 7.30pm
Runtime: 120 mins (including interval)