An artistic but unpolished performance at the ADC
Ahead 0f its opening night, Eidolon – a new student play by Sieve Bonaiuti – had been billed as an abstract and dream-like folk story, and fairytale-esque it certainly was: hero Þjórsá meets nonbinary immortal jester Sasha in the opening scene, and the two embark on a journey of sorts through the woods, reconnecting with Þjórsá’s lost love Penelope along the way. It sounds simple, and in some ways it is, but elsewhere, this is a play which strives both to step outside of the lines and to blur them together entirely.
The crossover between reality, dreams and fantasy allows many an allegorical meaning to be attached to Eidolon, and it’s certainly held together by a deeply intriguing concept, but the excessive self-awareness and ambition behind the performance sometimes prohibits it from running as smoothly as it might like.
What seemingly begins as the journey of two separated lovers who seek to find each other again turns very rapidly into a meandering piece with a remarkable absence of plot – and for all that our jester Sasha attempts to balance out our hero Þjórsá (Val Gladkova) with some witty and entertaining one-liners, Þjórsá’s persistent and melodramatic existentialism can’t help but grow exhausting when he’s doing nothing but talking.
That said, plays with little plot leave a blank canvas for the actors and directors to take in any direction they please, and the cast’s understated performances last night brought a wholly whimsical tone to the ADC stage, appropriate for a late-night showing. While a conventional fairytale jester is designed with light humour in mind, Diego Matos’ surprisingly sweet portrayal of Sasha provoked more sympathy than laughs, and that’s in keeping with the premise of Eidolon: even Cody Knight’s otherwise excellent performance as supposedly wise prophetess and heroine Penelope is somewhat limited by her character’s propensity for introspective but wholly unrevealing monologues.
Eidolon is a highly artistic play in every sense of the word: its very title comes from the Ancient Greek word for “ghost, dream, or vision”, and from the dreamy lit-up set design to the fantastically dramatic costumes all the way down to the wordy passages which dominate much of the performance, this play’s applaudable obsession with the meaning of life and art shines through.
However, when the theme of the surreal is combined with such artistic vision, what should be profoundly thought-provoking can rapidly verge on incoherent and disjointed. I couldn’t help but feel that the writer was aware this was a risk when putting it all together, and the resulting choice to directly impose certain messages on the play in the final scene was a little overbearing, a side-effect of being too self-aware to begin with.
Sasha’s final monologue underlined the fact that humanity’s true gift is its ability to creative beautiful and moving art, and elsewhere these (numerous) closing monologues informed the audience that our lives revolve around “words”, and that we must remember our name and our story, or risk amounting to nothing. While these are interesting takeaways in themselves, I feel that both messages had already been made clear by the 90 minutes we had already watched, and for a play which is otherwise so craftily cloaked in metaphor, this seemed a little out of place.
All-in-all, once the opening night’s nerves have passed, Eidolon may well grow into its – hugely ambitious – shoes. As it stands, however, this ADC late show might not be the best fit for you unless you possess a predilection for philosophical midnight ramblings – and for beautifully elaborate costumes, of course.
Eidolon will be running at the ADC Theatre at 11.00pm from Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th January. Tickets are available here.
Feature image credits: Sieve Bonaiuti