I'm a freelance actor, travel writer, photographer, foodie and attention seeker living in the lower North Shore. Check out my blog at www.emmajaneexplores.com for more.
“Without prejudice we’re nothing"
The Old Fitz is renowned for avant garde productions that push the boundaries of conventional theatre and their latest offering, Cyprus Avenue is no exception. A brutal, violent and unsettling production, this is one show that is not for the faint-hearted and comes with a massive trigger warning.
In contemporary Northern Ireland, a rich, white man Eric lives full of the kind of hate and bigotry that borders on utter madness. He's sexist, intolerant and completely self-righteous in a way that only out of touch, privileged white men can be and it's totally infuriating to watch. His world view is so distorted, in fact, that he begins to believe his infant granddaughter is Irish Republican politician Gerry Adams, a complete contradiction to his competing Ulster Protestant beliefs and upbringing. Whilst grappling with the appearance of Gerry Adams in the form of a five-week old baby, Eric meets the volatile and angry Protestant youth, Slim and together the two of them fester in hatred to devastating effect.
Roy Barker as Eric in Cyprus Avenue
Anna Houston directs this brutal piece, keeping the vision for the show simple to really let the ultra-violent and upsetting narrative take hold. Her vision is well-supported by a clinically white production and lighting design by Ester Karuso-Thurn and Matt Cox respectively and eerie sound design by Ben Pierpoint.
As the lead, Roy Barker's Eric treads a line between doddering old man and violent bigot well. There's a level of emotional detachment in Barker's interactions with his family and psych that are unsettling, yet we're also drawn in by his storytelling. It's a performance that is well measured and nuanced and despite a few opening night line fumbles, Barker's performance is all at once engaging and terribly upsetting.
As Barker's long-suffering and confused family, Jude Gibson and Amanda McGregor both nail the balance between empathy and patience and utter disgust at the family patriarch's intolerance and racist tendencies. Branden Christine as the psychiatrist, Bridget, similarly navigates the murky waters of remaining impartial and clinical yet also being visibly shaken by Eric's off-kilter sentiments about people of colour perfectly.
Lloyd Allison-Young gives an absolutely outstanding performance as the young and extremely violent Slim. Allison-Young embodies the explosive young wannabe terrorist with such exuberance. He's totally mad, hilarious, disturbing and likeable all at once; utterly unhinged. It's an extremely dangerous combination very difficult to pull off and Allison-Young nails it.
If you're not in a good place or are triggered by domestic violence, then I'd suggest this is not the show for you. If you, however, are able to stomach watching what is a tough, upsetting and disturbing piece of theatre that goes further than most plays to shake the audience out of their comfort zone, then Cyprus Avenue is a must see.