Based on the novel by Édouard Louis
Directed and adapted by Eline Arbo
It’s a quiet village. A peaceful, almost picturesque view of utopic bliss. But Édouard Louis’ autobiographical The End of Eddy’s steadfast and microscopic examination of small-town syndrome shatters any illusion. For if you found yourself in a post-industrial village, deprived, and trapped in an endless cycle of poverty, wrath, ignorance, and prejudice – that quiet village which houses a breeding ground of widespread homophobia, institutionalised racism, and substance abuse might not be the dream retreat after all.
Quite different to the previous Edinburgh International Festival outing of Louis’ novel, International Theater Amsterdam’s production is overly boisterous and decadent in its presentation. Divisive, for audiences it will captivate, but it’s difficult to say if that’s for a good or worrying reason. Performed largely in Dutch, the production flips and flops between languages – and though largely accessible, questions do creep as recitations of Shakespeare manifest in French, while pop songs occur in English.
Performed by four men, in addition to Eddy, they initially line the backdrop of the stage – almost setting up for a late nineties’ boyband performance in their Adidas trackies and flopped hair. But this visage is shattered by the lighting produced by these men as they recount the early years of Louis’ life in rural France which prized men for their stamina, their toughness, and their inflated masculinity.
The fluid machination of manoeuvring ‘Eddy’ between the men enables to transitions to apply the vulnerability and instability of Eddy’s life and upbringing – constantly switching from body to body, a persistent reminder not only of the violence imposed on Eddy but the self-loathing they possess. Victor Ijdens, Romijn Scholten, Jesse Mensah, and Felix Schellekens perform the role in equal measure and maintains the rampant pacing of the piece, enabling the others a small spot to breathe as we whirlwind around Eddy’s relationships with his mother, his father, the bullies, and of course himself.
This pacing rushes blood through the audience, not sure of where to stop. Often blushing our cheeks, emboldening our passions, or even warming our fists. It’s an all too aural affair under Thijs van Vuure’s synthetically charged 90’s soundscape with electronic extensions of pop genre beats. All housed until Juul Dekker’s crinkled plastic design, which captures and bounces Varja Klosse’s lighting a treat.
Often where a production establishes a warning of sensitive natures, it’s taken with a pinch of salt. But this is no idle threat, but rather a promise from Norwegian director Eline Arbo. The brutality, not only of the populist intolerance of the stripped bare industrial village, is physically conveyed with the storytelling by the four men. The ritualistic notion of Louis’ coming-of-age aspect finds the quartet reacting to sexual awakenings and reinvention with their nude writhing under the fluorescent light.
The End of Eddy constantly tip-toes the edges of falling apart at the seams. Entirely intentional to drive audiences to an edge of discomfort and glee, where the show seems to flirt with chaos in a way to invites disaster. It’s carried with tremendous fervour and enthusiasm which all but makes up for the shortcomings in script translation and coherency.
Fervour and enthusiasm
The End of Eddy runs at the Church Hill Theatre until August 21st.
Further information about the production can be found here.