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Eden

Eugene O'Brien
Arts
(2002)

To know that Conor McPherson has directed this award-winning import from the Abbey in Dublin conveys its essence. As with McPherson's own plays such as the much-lauded The Weir, Eden comprises a series of monologues that slowly unfold a weekend's happenings in an enclosed community.

The play is set in a small town where the "new man" has not been invented. It is still acceptable to spend the weekend drunk and for a married father of two to chase after young women.

The two combatants are Billy and Breda, a husband and wife who have stopped communicating long ago. He spends his nights on drinking binges, envying the supposed sexual freedom of his mates. She is more of a romantic and having come off a successful crash diet, wants no more than to woo back her husband.

They each tell the story of a long weekend which will have surprising consequences. Billy chases Imelda Egan, a young girl who may or may not fancy him. At the same time, the new slimline Breda is relaunching herself in a town that has cruelly nicknamed her and removed her pride.

As they tell their tale in almost equally thick accents, Billy often using a weird kind of Cork-ney rhyming slang, there are many similarities and a few differences in perception. In particular, Billy's macho boasting is soon debunked and his impotence is something that hangs over his story.

The storytelling and the craic are good, with excellent performances from Catherine Walsh as the fast-talking Breda and Don Wycherley as the almost unintelligibly drunken Billy. It paints a realistic picture of life in a small community as McPherson's work has in the past. It is very alien to a London audience soaked in women's rights and the new sobriety that drink-driving bans have brought.

The tale has some twists as it reaches its climax but somehow it lacks drama or sufficient humour to be a real success. This may be a cultural difference between playing to those who recognise characters as their own and to outsiders who cannot identify in the same way.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher