Geoffrey Streatfeild, Alison O’Donnell, Sinead Matthews, John Cummins
Penelope Skinners new play, Eigengrau, moves so fast youve barely settled in your seat before its all over.
This somewhat morally ambiguous and sometimes overwhelming black comedy looks at the danger of getting involved, with flatmates, with lovers and with friends.
It begins with what is a fairly conventional comic set up and then takes it somewhere unexpected and unsettling. When feminist Cassie finds Rose through Gumtree and invites her to live with her, she’s setting herself up for tension and trauma, though she doesn’t realise it at first.
Rose is a bit of a nutjob and is soon practically stalking marketing man Mark, who, in addition to avoiding the one-night stand from hell, has to deal with his growing desire for Cassie and his easily influenced layabout flatmate Tim.
As the play progresses, lonely Cassie (a pleasingly nuanced Alison ODonnell) slowly finds herself subsumed by desire for Mark, her principles floating away like dandelion puffs on the breeze. Meanwhile, Rose grows more and more crazed as time passes, ignoring the real world in favour of her own imaginary one, where bills dont exist and boys do exactly what you want them to.
Mark, boxed into a corner by his passion for Cassie and played with lovely sparkle and sneer by Geoffrey Streatfeild (replacing Laurence Fox who was originally cast in the role), seems unable to get past his own playboy lifestyle and really do anything meaningful, while a still-mourning Tim (John Cummins) misinterprets the signals from Rose and digs himself into a deep hole of adoration.
While there is no doubt Eigengrau is extremely funny, at times gloriously so, and that Skinner is an accomplished writer, the play does suffer from some pacing issues. With jokes ribboning through the text, that its not always easy for the audience to keep up with what the characters are really saying to one another.
Additionally, and perhaps this was intentional, it was hard to feel anything much for the characters, most of whom came off as rather one-dimensional. This was particularly true of Sinead Matthew’s Rose, whose constant witterings and inability to remain still in any situation failed to endear, even in the last scenes of the play.