Based on the book En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule by Édouard Louis;
Adapted by Pamela Carter; Directed by Stewart Laing
Produced by Untitled Projects and Unicorn Theatre
Part of BAM's Next Wave Festival
Off Broadway, Play
Runs 11.14.19 - 11.21.19
BAM's Fishman Space, 321 Ashland Place
by Keith Paul Medelis on 11.18.19
Oseloka Obi and James Russell-Morley in The End of Eddy.
BOTTOM LINE: A book report adaptation of Édouard Louis’ autobiographical novel with only hints of its beauty.
Édouard Louis’ book The End of Eddy begins “From my childhood I have no happy memories.” In both the book and the theatrical adaptation, from Untitled Projects and Unicorn Theatre in London, we are narrated a series of autobiographical events in the author's young life, from experiences of verbal and physical abuse at the hands of his mother and father to “faggot”-slinging insults from class bullies.
Pamela Carter's adaptation, with direction by Stewart Land, casts both Oseloka Obi and James Russell-Morley, two of the most different looking people—Obi tall, muscular, black; Russell-Morley short, pear-shaped, white—to play Eddy. And the Father, Mother, Brothers, Bullies, Girlfriends, and, at plays end, a newly found Édouard, one who has now abandoned his name for the more distinguished and truthful sounding name on the program's cover.
The casting lends itself to a presentational retelling of the autobiographical novel, one that was originally designed for young adult audiences but here works just as well. Hyemi Shin designs a set with four television sets. TV, an ever-present fixture in Louis’ home, serving as a surrogate parental unit in their absence, is almost a fully formed character in his novel. Here, the televisions help fill out this cast of characters as we see a story unfold through supplemental video scenes and text designed by Finn Ross.
The repetitive use of this storytelling device becomes tiresome, much like the direct address style of the piece. The dark territory the book explores is merely hinted at here, and the additions that Carter makes, including a sort of car-pool karaoke version of Celine Dion and a strange interjected monologue from Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched, feel unhelpful, even unnecessary, given the well-rounded source material that Louis provides.
What's fascinating, though, is that Laing's casting hints at a dark undertone of racism in the work, one that Louis’ explores more fully in History of Violence, Louis' second novel-turned-play, which is getting its own simultaneous premiere in collaboration with St. Ann’s Warehouse. After cutting the cord from his parents and the television sets, Louis moves to Paris—with his father’s voice ringing in his ears to beware of “Arabs and blacks.” It is left to Obi to deliver this line as a mark of suspense, which is fully explored in the that latter work. But here, the double-casting takes on a message of triumph, with a story of one person embodied by two wholly different actors. “We thought it would be less lonely this way,” states Carter’s adaptation.
(The End of Eddy plays at the BAM Fisher, 321 Ashland Place, November 14 through 21, 2019. The running time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Performances are Thursday through Saturday (11/14-11/16) at 7:30, Sunday 11/17 at 5, and Tuesday through Thursday (11/19-11/21) at 7:30. Tickets are $25 and are available at bam.org or by calling 718-636-4182.)
The End of Eddy is based on the book En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule by Édouard Louis and adapted by Pamela Carter. Directed by Stewart Laing. Scenic and Costume Design by Hyemi Shin. Video Design by Finn Ross. Lighting Design by Zerlina Hughes. Sound Design by Josh Anio Grigg. Company Stage Manager is Fiona Johnston. American Stage Manager is Caroline Englander.
The cast is Oseloka Obi and James Russell-Morley.