Theatre review - Oh, The Humanity, And Other Interventions

Will Eno’s five playlets ruminate on some of the darkly-comic aspects of human existence: the fragility of happiness, the pain of desire, and the daily challenge of connecting with others and communicating effectively.

In the first piece, John Kirk plays a sports coach who attempts to explain his team’s poor performance at a press conference. But going off at a tangent, he begins to describe his despair at losing the woman he loved. “I’m so filled with wanting”, he admits. He also recalls the bitter day he sees his reflection in a fridge freezer and has to tell himself, “You're not having a bad day—this is just what you look like now.”

An airline rep (Lucy Ellinson) also digresses from her script in ENTER THE SPOKESWOMAN, GENTLY. After a fatal plane crash, she is forced to speak to the victims’ grieving relatives and quickly realises that she does not have the adequate words to offer them any consolation.

Conversely, in LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE RAIN, two lonely hearts (Tony Bell and Ellinson) convey too much as they separately record their personal videos for a dating site. Echoing the sports coach, the man describes himself as “full of want”, while the woman sees herself as joining the ranks of “lone people in serious wait.” They both long for a partner, to feel loved, in order to give their lives meaning. But as they begin to divulge their innermost thoughts and unpick their quiet desperation on camera, we realise that they are stripping themselves bare.

The title (and final) piece is the most meta-theatrical of the five and a wonderful metaphor for the uncertainty of our journey through life. A man and woman’s car has broken down. As they fail to get it started again they argue about their final destination, unable to determine whether they are travelling to a funeral or a christening.

Eno is a master wordsmith. His characters’ troubled psyches are invariably revealed through their words rather than their actions, making me feel that some of his work is better suited to radio. But these five mini-plays couldn’t have been better presented. Erica Whyman’s beautiful staging and the sterling performances ensure that Eno’s kaleidoscope of life’s absurdities and uncertainties is never less than engaging.

Originally published by Theatreworld