@ Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 12 Mar 2016
Each performance of Eclipse’s three day run begins with two different and brand new plays presented back-to-back. In the first section tonight are two light-heartedly surreal pieces performed as rehearsed readings by Lyceum Youth Theatre: Upstage, Dorothy Porter by Sarah Thewlis and Please Pac a Mac by Mel Rozel Brayford. Both are easy going and whimsical with some witty lines. The actors do well to help the audience forget they are performing with scripts in hand and there’s some amusing comic acting, particularly from the ensemble, playing various items of discarded clothing in the second play.
After the interval, Eclipse offers a very different experience to the first half. While there is the odd comedic comment and moment, the over-riding sense is one of mystery and discomfort that has the audience intentionally disconcerted from beginning to end. The split level staging is one of the factors clarifying that we are engaged in watching both the present and the past; as an older set of actors eerily relay the events of an encounter with a stranger several years previously, their story is then portrayed in the foreground by younger actors playing the older characters’ earlier selves. It begins as just a group of friends who’ve come to the beach to watch an eclipse of the sun, but darker themes soon emerge including juvenile drug use, parental bereavement and disability.
The casting and costuming of the two sets of actors to look alike, makes the comparisons easily identifiable and the majority of portrayals are strong and believable. The playwright (Simon Armitage) weaves rhyme throughout, making for interesting dialogue that retains a conversational flow, driving the plot forward, but also adding to the pervasive sense of strangeness among the characters and their interaction. Eclipse is an engaging piece, but leaves the audience with unanswered questions around the outcome, which some audience members may find frustrating or unsatisfying.
With a good balance of styles in this double bill, audiences have the opportunity to sample a few different plays and be immersed in three different worlds in just a couple of hours. While this production is unlikely to leave theatre-goers very moved or changed by the experience, these plays do offer some thought provoking moments, light comedy, intrigue and escapism.