A Breakfast of Eels**** (Print Room)

Posted: March 21, 2015 in Theatre

Andrew Sherdian & Matthew Tennyson Feb 2015This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Penrose and Francis gather in their Highgate home to prepare for the funeral of the man that they both call “Daddy”, bickering with each other nervously. Yet they are not brothers. Francis was taken in by the family as a gardener when he was 16 and Penrose only two and, now, 19 years later, the fraternal bonds between the pair are seemingly unbreakable. Robert Holman’s new play takes these *brothers” on a journey of mutual discovery as they tease, test and question each other to uncover past secrets that are uncomfortable for both. The play has a keen sense of how the impact of childhood incidents, major and minor, can linger throughout lives and it shows both men to be damaged – Penrose, with a privileged background, suffering from parental neglect and Francis, with lowly roots in Northumberland, being haunted by abuse and tragedy. This production gets added value from bespoke casting. Matthew Tennyson at first seems far too innocent and immature for Penrose’s 21 years and Andrew Sheridan too bruised and world weary to be only 35. However, as Holman created the two characters for these specific actors, we know that the roles are being played exactly as the writer intended and both the performances are deeply moving. The play explores the nature of love in its purest, platonic form; it shows the importance of giving and accepting care; and it delves into the value of family, conventional or otherwise. Moving from Highgate and Parliament Hill, with its panoramic urban views, to the villages and fields of rural Northumberland, Holman’s descriptive writing has a vivid feel for the locations which form part of key incidents in his characters’ lives. Robert Hastie’s production never forces the pace of the play, with soft lighting on an uncluttered wooden stage creating a reflective atmosphere to underpin the themes of loss and recovery. Music also plays a part, with classical piano pieces being played offstage (supposedly by Penrose) and both actors performing (extremely well) traditional songs. Undeniably Holman’s play is slow to unfold, wordy and a little overlong, but the work possesses rare insight and intensity which make it tug consistently at the heartstrings throughout.

Performance date: 20 March 2015

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