Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court Theatre
Cyprus Avenue tells of Eric Miller (Stephen Rea), a Belfast loyalist brought up in Northern Ireland during “the troubles”.
An initially ambiguous tragedy leads to Eric having to see Bridget (Wunmi Mosaku), a therapist, and they begin to talk about Eric’s life. This scene soon dissolves and the narrative is told largely through a series of flashbacks, detailing the horrific nature of his crimes and the puzzling motives behind them. The first of these looks back into Eric’s life and tells the audience he has recently become a grandfather to a beautiful young girl; as he picks her up to look at her for the first time he notices something strange: she is Gerry Adams, the Irish republican politician.
The script, written by David Ireland, is very strong when it comes to the comedic moments. The actors feed off this funny narrative and produce highly commendable performances, with particular note going to Rea. He portrays the elderly Eric as quite childlike, which affects the audience in just the right way, evoking sympathy even when he has just committed the most atrocious acts. The final scene, in which the original therapy session comes to a conclusion, is an incredibly powerful moment of theatre as Eric chats calmly with Bridget about what happened whilst the unsightly result of his actions lies scattered around the stage, a pool of blood seeping into the carpet.
The play thus becomes rather grotesque towards the end. The jokes, which are unrelenting, stop eliciting any laughter from their audience who had been in such a jocular mood during the first 20 minutes. Potentially, it was the playwright’s intention to try and avoid as much acknowledgement of the horrors that have occurred, yet, at times, the play feels as if it needs fewer jokes and a bit more pathos.
Photo: Helen Murray
Cyprus Avenue is on at the Royal Court Theatre from 5th April until 7th May 2016, for further information or to book visit here.