Cyprus Avenue at the Royal Court Theatre
Attempting to offer the public some relief from the social distancing measures currently in place, the Royal Court Theatre is presenting one of its finest recent plays on YouTube from 27th March until 26th April: David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue. With equal measures of wit and clever philosophical exploration of identity and existential angst, it offers 90 minutes of spectacular entertainment with actor Stephen Rea at his absolute finest.
The story follows Belfast unionist Eric Miller (Rea) as he narrates to his psychologist (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo) the traumatic events that led to him being there with her. In a brilliant piece of absurd comedy, Miller believes that his infant granddaughter is the president of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, due to her “Fenian eyes” – much to the horror of both his daughter (Amy Molloy) and his wife (Andrea Irvine).
Needless to say, for a play that has won several awards, the script is brimming with black comedy gold – one brilliant line following the other, only to be interrupted abruptly by brutal moments of pure horror. The consequential effect is a play that is utterly powerful from start to finish – it will never let you go.
A lot of Cyprus Avenue’s power stems from Rea’s performance. That’s not to say that it is entirely a one-man-show, but it almost is. Rea captures his character’s existential crisis so perfectly that it becomes entirely believable; every line is delivered with pristine perfection as we watch Miller struggle with his identity as a British Protestant with deep prejudices against the Catholic Irish. After a fateful encounter with would-be Protestant-terrorist Slim (Chris Corrigan), the horrifying conclusion seems inevitable, yet it still arrives unexpectedly and is shocking to an audience that may have gained a little understanding – if not sympathy – for Miller’s position.
Director Vicky Featherstone is supported by strong lighting design by Paul Keogan, creating a skillful and seamless transition between Miller’s conversations with his psychologist and the flashbacks. The result is a smooth production that flows nicely towards its conclusion. Cyprus Avenue is a sheer joy to watch, packing a profoundly cathartic ending that will leave audiences gobsmacked for days to come.
Cyprus Avenue is on the Royal Court Theatre’s YouTube channel from 27th March until 26th April 2020. You can watch Cyprus Avenue by visiting their YouTube channel here.