Adam & Eve – a 65-minute dive into trust, temptation and power structures by Royal Court Young Writer Tim Cook – is rhythmically tight and earnestly performed, but fervidly upper-middle-class, uncomfortably inward-looking and, for me at least, more than slightly dubious in its politics.
I’m conscious that Tim Cook’s Adam & Eve has received some lovely reviews elsewhere – so just want to say from the outset that I’m glad the production (currently enjoying a run at The Hope Theatre) grips, stimulates and presumably ‘speaks to’ some. I genuinely wanted to enjoy this self-coined ‘modern-day Genesis story’ too: performances are committed, Cook’s writing is rhythmically tight and despite its aesthetical minimalism, ample thought has clearly been ploughed into every production decision. All of which makes it significantly harder to pick apart.
But for me at least, this 65-minute look at trust, temptation and gender politics becomes increasingly problematic – and subsequently tedious – by the minute. I find myself waiting for this tale of #MeToo-esque accusation to morph into anything other – or more macroscopic – than an exclusively white, upper-middle-class, heterosexual and inward-looking melodrama, but the moment never materialises. The text seems nowhere near as encompassing of modern experience as you’d expect, especially given the universal nature of the allegory it’s named itself after.
The relationship between the eponymous couple seems palpably difficult to connect or relate to, for instance. They whine about ‘missing pollution and sirens’ in their new cottage in the country, boast about ‘demolishing the Nutella’ in a moment of first-world crisis – and finish every early scene with a prolonged onstage kiss (something, particularly when repeated, I tend to find to distance audiences…I cringe just as much as when I see people all over each other on the Tube). I just find myself feeling so little for either modern-day ‘parent of the human race’ (here an estate agent and a secondary-school English teacher) – and that’s not because they’re white, hetero, upper-middle-class or (personality-wise) just bland as f%!k, but because there’s zero acknowledgement or deprecation (from themselves, or anyone) that this is the case.
The central characters’ lack of chemistry significantly limits the play’s efficacy. Maybe I’m heartless, but when we hear about the sexual accusations made against Adam – and Eve’s key line ‘just because I trust you doesn’t mean you’re incapable of lying’ shapes the rest of the action – the only character I genuinely find myself caring for is the one not onstage and given the least stage time (Nikki, the accuser and a pupil of Adam’s). I assume we’re supposed to care about Eve, but I just don’t. I don’t ‘buy’ their relationship enough to find any risk of a breakup compelling. I sort of just want them to hurry up and part ways; maybe the separation would encourage her to realise the extent of her blandness, and she could find a hobby.
I assume we’re not supposed to care about Adam, at least initially (I hope not anyway – because I didn’t), and this is probably the play’s point: that society’s very quick to jump to conclusions and the #MeToo age finds it perhaps too easy to assume ‘guilty until proven otherwise’. But I really do struggle with a male writer, in particular, making this point – and particularly when the characters he’s using to make it are so seemingly underwritten. I also must admit I found the ending distinctly uncomfortable: the politics of a man essentially writing a play about women getting feminism ‘wrong’, or taking it too far, or however we want to describe what you’re supposed to feel about Nikki after the final revelation, seem dubious to say the least. And particularly considering the #MeToo movement, and sentiment, is still so early in its comparative lifespan.
Of course this is further problematised by the fact I’m a man critiquing this also, but Adam & Eve doesn’t necessarily strike me as the right place to be tackling feminism front-on anyway. I’m not even confident it’d pass the Bechdel test for instance; both female character’s existences seem very much in relation to the man they’re fighting over, and say very little (if anything) to each other which doesn’t involve reference to Adam. So I just found the play’s conclusion quite difficult to digest; the intended audience effect is relatively unclear and although I assume the intention is for it to open a debate, I don’t feel entirely confident Cook is clear on exactly what debate he wants to instigate.