Camden Fringe 2019: A Slice of Eel Pie at Hen & Chickens Theatre
Lesley Ann Albiston’s play A Slice of Eel Pie spins its audience to the heart of the sixties and yanks them back out again albeit with a slow start and rushed ending. The Camden Fringe production takes three odd couples and patches together a story of Eel Island, the legendary spit of land in the Thames that drew hippie crowds to its hotel of the same name for jazz and rock concerts. The writer hones in on the island’s last years as a commune and the next generation adversely affected by one woman’s free love in London’s Swinging Sixties.
Spanning two timelines, the play is structured through unlikely couples who became a part of the same story. The unlikely duos are two 50-year-old serial killers on a quest to avenge their mother who was discarded by her lovers in the commune, two incapable detectives tracing a series of murders by “The Slicer”, and Mint Julep, a fishmonger’s daughter drawn into the illustrious allure of Eel Island.
The set is economical and allows room for the characters’ exploration. Neil Cole’s smudged Yin and Yang sharpie tattoo gave a tongue-in-cheek wink at the world long gone. At a gallery, we take a trip down Pop Art lane with A3 printouts slyly nodding to the heart of the movement itself. The detectives are cartoonish in comparison and their dialogue is hard to follow.
Rafaela Elliston’s performance as Mint Julep soars as she commands the stage and hearts of her audience. Although Julep is introduced as an art school joke and departs as little more than a scraggly psychedelic phantom, Elliston demands compassion and gives depth to an otherwise flat role. Her glassy eyes mark insurmountable strength in her presence. A Slice of Eel Pie is wholly unsympathetic to its female lead who is continually and cruelly branded a “bitch” more times.
This leads us to the confusing ending, which takes a pointed turn as it brandishes the one sympathetic character. She is simultaneously blamed for the actions of her full-grown children and villainised by her abandoning lovers. Perhaps Albiston’s point is that the woman can’t win. Hidden among the scenes are the seeds for a scrupulous investigation into a city long gone and replaced by high-rise London shooting up 50 years later. A Slice of Eel Pie hones in on the question of whether you can be your own person and ultimately decides that there is always someone else to blame.
A Slice of Eel Pie is at Hen & Chickens Theatre from 22nd until 25th August 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
For further information about Camden Fringe 2019 visit the festival website here.