Amédée, Birmingham REP - review
Playwright Eugène Ionesco, one of the leading lights in the Theatre of the Absurd genre, maintained that it was the job of the writer to ask questions and that it was up to politicians to provide the answers. His most successful play was The Rhinoceros, which dealt with the rise of Totalitarianism and showed how the strong could trample on the weak.
The REP's artistic director Roxana Silbert has chosen this relatively unknown work, first seen in 1954, by the French-Romanian writer and it certainly is a challenge, skilfully brought up-to-date in Sean Foley's adaptation.
The action opens with Amédée trying to concentrate on writing his play. He has been working on it for fifteen years and has only completed the first line. His wife Madeleine has been cleaning the bedroom, which contains a fifteen year old corpse. However, the corpse is not only incorruptible-- it has continued to grow and now dominates their lives. She is the main-bread-winner, apparently working from home as a telephonist, and the two of them are clearly slaves of duty as they try desperately to keep the body a secret.
The "body" in question is their marriage. We are given pieces of information, but whose body it is and how it got there are questions which are never really answered. Even the ability it has to create an abundance of poisonous mushrooms is a fact of life the couple have to learn to live with.
Ultimately, when the body begins to threaten to crowd them out of their apartment Madeleine says that the body has to go or she will get a divorce. The body is then bundled out of the apartment, but instead of the being disposed of in the canal, the body floats away into the sky with Amédée attached to it. It's a recognition that once the secret is out there is no longer any need to keep up the pretence.
The confines of the REP's Studio theatre make this a little difficult to achieve convincingly, but otherwise Roxana Silbert's production is a finely detailed piece of theatre which captures the strange dystopian nature of a marriage which has carefully removed any chance of coming into contact with the rest of society.
Josie Lawrence returns to the REP stage as Madeleine and succeeds in reflecting the many facets of this very complex character, while Trevor Fox, in the title role, brilliantly conveys the character of the writer frustrated by the overbearing presence in the next room.
While the context of the play suggests that we all might try to keep our skeletons securely in their cupboards, or the elephants confined to their rooms, there is a price to pay and that facing up to unpleasant truths may ultimately be the better choice.
Amédée runs at the REP until 11th March.
By Jerald Smith