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BWW Review: ADAM & EVE, The Hope Theatre


BWW Review: ADAM & EVE, The Hope Theatre

BWW Review: ADAM & EVE, The Hope Theatre The couple at the heart of the award-winning writer Tim Cook's new play Adam and Eve inevitably calls to mind its biblical counterpart.

They are a young, naïve and aspiring pair who fell in love at first sight and who move to a countryside idyll in order to realise the full expression of newlywed bliss through the purchase of their first property together, raising a family and living happily ever after in their own version of Eden.

We know from the opening scene that Adam (Lee Knight) and Eve (Jeannie Dickinson) have had their own fall from grace. When Adam is suspended from his English teaching job following accusations from Nikki (Melissa Parker), a troubled teenager, it unravels their former harmonious existence and marks the end of their sojourn in Paradise.

As evidence against a prevaricating Adam mounts up and Eve veers between loyalty to Adam and nagging suspicion, the audience is kept guessing throughout whether Adam did indeed take a bite of the forbidden apple.

This makes the play a forensic examination on the themes of trust, fidelity and the nature of truth and guilt. In many ways, this deliberate unbalancing is the great strength of the production.

Having received rave reviews when it first showed at Jack Studio Theatre last year, this transfer to The Hope Theatre is a crisp, gripping and confidently paced 65-minute, in-the-round exploration of the shifting affiliations the audience attaches to whose story it believes in the era of #MeToo and post-truth.

The actors clearly relish Cook's smart, effervescent and rhythmically tight writing. They reproduce it on stage with sparkling energy and undeniable chemistry, which goes a long way to elucidate the push and pull tensions between the different motivations that define the characters.

The production itself is aesthetically lean - the most elaborate touch being a chandelier made up of scrunched-up paper through which some of the lighting cues are filtered, although it was difficult to discern what the paper represented. The nature of storytelling and believability, perhaps?

Director Jennifer Davis must be commended too for concentrating the stage action on the characters instead of the set design. She uses the simple expedience of a few, minimal changes in chair positions, sound and lighting to suggest the couple's home, the school where Adam works or the supermarket in which Nikki has a Saturday job.

This is very effective in keeping our attention focused firmly on the characters, and it makes a virtue of the tiny space in which the drama plays out.

Given all of these positive aspects, it's frustrating that the script doesn't go far enough in seeding the twist that overturns the audience's expectations of what kind of play it is watching.

Subverting the audience's expectations is, of course, part of the playwright's stock-in-trade, but in this case, coming as late in the play as it does and without the benefit of foregrounding, the twist feels like it's come from an entirely different play and carries the slight whiff of deus ex machina. This muddies the thematic purpose and renders the character of Nikki little more than a cipher.

With metafictional references to Jane Eyre (it's the subject of Nikki's essay and part of the character's raison d'être; we also see Eve reading it), Cook touches on the theme of gender politics. Unfortunately, this feels under-explored - an opportunity missed to add deeper layers to the central premise through Adam's interaction with Nikki.

The 50-seater Hope Theatre bills itself as a little theatre with big ideas, and Adam and Eve certainly reflects this mission statement. It's a play with big ideas, surefooted in many ways, but not fully realised into a cohesive whole.

Adam & Eve at The Hope Theatre until 9 June

Photo credit: Tim Cook

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