The End of Eddy

Aug 23 2018 | By More

★★★★☆    Inventive realism

Festival Theatre Studio: Tue 21–Sun 26 Aug 2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

The End of Eddy at the Studio is both creatively playful and grippingly real, as a production of rare immediacy is built around a combination of technology and human interaction.

Unicorn Theatre and Untitled Projects’ production for the International Festival is based on Edouard Louis’s autobiographical novel En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule, which was published in 2014 when he was only 21. It has since appeared in more than 25 languages, including as The End of Eddy translated by Michael Lucey.

The End of Eddy Unicorn Theatre and Untitled Projects for the EIF. Kwaku Mill and Alex Austin. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

Kwaku Mill and Alex Austin. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

Even in translation, Louis’s prose is startlingly clear-eyed and non-judgemental in its portrait of the poverty, homophobia and racism of the village in Northern France where Eddy grows up, knowing his being gay sets him apart.

The astonishing, mind-expanding clarity of the book – not to mention some of the incidents described – means it is bound to be problematic in terms of a dramatic representation. Not surprisingly, writer Pamela Carter and director Stewart Laing (whose previous work for Untitled includes Paul Bright’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner) have found a creative way around this.

Four television monitors feature centrally in Hyemi Shin’s stripped-back set, and the two performers, Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills, feature on them, interacting with their live-action selves.

Austin (who bears a definite facial similarity to Louis) and Mills share the role of Eddy, as well as portraying the other characters in the story. The monitors are raised and lowered to show characters’ height; one is moved to ground level when a character is on the floor.

endearingly inventive

This could come across as tricksy and annoying, but it seems natural and endearingly inventive which helps to alleviate some of the more disturbing moments. Some of the more extreme of these are deliberately omitted (in a production aimed at a 16-plus teenage audience) as is explained in one of a series of asides and footnotes to the text.

The End of Eddy Unicorn Theatre and Untitled Projects for the EIF. Kwaku Mill and Alex Austin. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

Kwaku Mill and Alex Austin. Pic: Ryan Buchanan

At times the book is discussed more than it is evoked, which is more intrusive and less satisfactory. However, the two actors are so accomplished, and their performances so winning, that the flow is not interrupted.

This is very much a production where everything is on show – apart from the monitors and the teenage hangout of a bus shelter, the scenery is minimal. The Studio looks entirely different from usual, and much as it must when used as a rehearsal room. Even the blackout blinds are raised, and the number 41 bus can be seen trundling past on Potterrow.

This unusual awareness of your surroundings – and 90 minutes as about as long as you would want to sit at one time in those retractable seats – enhances rather than detracts from the experience. There is the definite feeling of a school assembly hall about the venue, which shows how easily this would transfer to more makeshift theatrical spaces.

A host of contemporary issues are being explored; the communities described were once the heartlands of the French left, but have now turned to the extreme right in huge numbers. The way that alienation can lead to pernicious intolerance of anyone seen as ‘the other’ is not shied away from here.

But this is not a depressing experience; rather, it is a celebration of the creativity of the human spirit.

Running time: one hour 30 minutes (no interval)
Part of the Edinburgh International Festival
Festival Theatre Studio, 22 Potterrow, EH8 9BL
Tuesday 21– Sunday 26 August 2018
Daily at 7.00 pm
Matinees Thurs – Sun at 2.00 pm.
Tickets and details on EIF website:

Untitled Projects website:
Twitter: @___Projects.
Unicorn Theatre:
Facebook: @unicorntheatre
Twitter: @Unicorn_Theatre.

The original novel is available to buy on Amazon:

The End of Eddy on tour 2018:
Tue 21 – Sun 26 Aug Edinburgh
The Studio
0131 529 6000 Book online
Tue 29 Inverness
Eden Court
01463 234234 Book online
Wed 30 Aug Ullapool
Macphail Centre
01854 613336 Book online
Sat 1 Sept Aberdeen
The Lemon Tree
01224 641122 Book online
Tue 4 Sept Moniaive
Glencairn Memorial Institute
01848 200205 Book online
Thurs 6 Sept Stirling
01786 466666 Book online
Sat 8 Sept Dumfries
Theatre Royal
01387 254209 Book online
Thurs 13 Sept – Sat 6 Oct London
Unicorn Theatre
020 7645 0560 Book online
Tue 9 – Sat 13 Oct Dublin
Projects Arts Centre
+353 1 8819 613 Book online


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