Inventive staging, a stylish design and unanimously assured performances elevate Airlock Theatre’s ERIS far beyond its source material, which could perhaps benefit from a redraft.
Natalie Johnson’s stylish design sets an apt tone for ERIS‘s fusion of the classical and contemporary. A character from the Greek alphabet – Psi (ψ) – becomes embedded into the sort of monochromatic wallpaper/dancefloor combo you only find in Soho nightspots, to provide a fitting backdrop for the retaliation efforts of modern ‘goddess of discord’ Seán to unfold.
The protagonist of Airlock Theatre’s polished production – currently at the Bunker Theatre (and, to Johnson and lighting designer Catja Hamilton’s credit, made for that space) – is essentially told his boyfriend is not welcome at a family wedding, due to the risk of his campiness upsetting the elderly guests. In actuality, Seán and Tim aren’t even still seeing each other when the bombshell drops – but that’s not the point, and we watch as Seán (a sparky and impassioned Cormac Elliot) plans and executes ‘vengeance’.
Performances are unanimously assured; Elliot, in particular, has a glint in his eye and sincerity to his performance reminiscent of those in The Inheritance…I imagine he’d be very good in it. But Robbie Taylor Hunt’s direction is what really elevated ERIS for me. Without such slick, frequently inventive and tightly-rehearsed staging decisions, I must admit that John King’s debut play might not have sustained my interest. It’s sort of odd genre-defying stuff – which is perhaps intentional (if I were to be kind), but also just a little difficult to work out what it wants to be. The writing isn’t quite ‘funny’ enough for ERIS to exist as a comedy, but equally perhaps lacks the ‘substance’ necessary for it to really ‘transcend the personal’ and stand for something far-reaching. The play itself could benefit from some dramaturgical work, basically, but Taylor Hunt does manage to bring it to life.
Other than the fact that Eris was first thought to wander about, small and insignificant, before raising her head up to heaven and calling war forth, the play’s links to Greek mythology – and the purpose of making the connections – are a little difficult to unpack. So again, if another draft of this play is to ever exist, it’d be beneficial to clarify exactly what is intended by bringing the two worlds together. Stylistically, it works – and the use of a modern ‘Greek chorus’, commenting on Seán’s actions as well as externalising his – and his friends’ – thoughts, is effective. But I don’t quite see enough connections between Eris and Seán just yet to justify, or make sense of, the attempted allegory.