I saw and heard everything but I’m none the wiser of what the play is meant to represent or any closer to making any sense of it, and this, evidently, is the thinking space conclusion that playwright, Eugene Ionesco first intended.
I overheard someone say when asked if they liked it ‘yes, it was good…’ then a slight pause followed by the reaffirmation ‘bizarre, but good’.
Reflecting on what we saw:
We saw a strange couple (Amédée and Madeleine) trying to cope with a shared problem. One that has been growing and growing. One that they have failed to get to grips with over a fifteen-year span and because of it they both appear to have lived a very insular and frugal existence inside a one bed-roomed flat.
Though the title suggests this is going to be about Amédée. I think we did not really get to know him. We know ‘the problem’ had made Amédée terribly indecisive and he possessed no ability to concentrate. We see a weird, scatter-brained character living on his nerves and who accomplishes nothing, nothing at all, until he floats away at the play’s end; quite literally.
As for Madeleine, well she is at odds with herself as to how she and Amédée had got in to this predicament in the first place, and is relying on to him to make things right. She works hard to keep on top of ‘the problem’ but she is plainly exhausted. She has a job too, because she is the bread winner. Madeleine works as a telephone operator, who sits at a switchboard to filter calls, but she does not appear to leave the flat to do it! She routes queries from and to royalty and political figures, war officers and democrats across different realities and different time frames.
If there is any bluffing, or double bluffing intended in the script, Sean Foley is fully engaging with the exactness of that activity as well as the surreal, in this, his very fine adaptation of the original. Talk about going off on tangents though! I wonder if Amédée (the play itself) was meant to represent a state of mind, or a noun of some sort. Who knows!
I have mixed feelings overall. The script is a little pedestrian with not much escalation because of deliberate repetition, but there is no taking away from the fact this is blackly funny and the two main actors handle the dialogue and the physicality expertly. Theatrically, Ti Green’s set design is rather good, and ‘the problem’ (the elephant in the room) in other words, is represented visually, and rather stunningly. I’d be a spoiler if I mention what that is exactly, but know its inclusion and the creative work to do with it raises the quality bar, and I settle comfortably at an award of 4 stars for this stage production.
Theatre critic, Debra Hall attended press night showing of Amédée at The Studio theatre at The Rep, Birmingham on Tuesday 28 February 2017
Photography: Ellie Kurttz