Colour should play strongly in Eigengrau, after all, the title itself refers to the dark grey that some people see in the absence of light. Grey is also the colour of the backdrop that the play is performed against, that with its carefully placed crates of differing heights and shapes gives the effect of a gloomy London skyline. There are also subtle references to colour schemes, and colour-based names dotted throughout what is at times a witty and fast-paced script. However, as with many other themes it touches upon, this remains frustratingly under-developed.
Eigengrau is the tale of four millennials, coping with the consequences of their age and decision to live in London. Between scenes voices overlap each other – snippets of job ads, rooms to let and sexual references – all alluding to the play’s themes of high cost of living, dating and sexual equality. If it weren’t for the fact the play was first performed in 2010, it would be easy to label it with the #metoo tag as well. Again though, these themes are left unfulfilled, those voiceovers dangling themes without the rest of the play delivering on them.
So, those four millennials. Rose, played with splendid kookiness by Katie Buchholz, is slightly eccentric, very optimistic and believes in everything: fairies, astrology, numerology, everything. Rose has just moved into the spare room in Cassie’s rented flat. Cassie (Isabel Della Porta) is pragmatic and cynical, a feminist lobbyist, distrustful of men in general. In fact, Rose and Cassie are the complete opposites of each other; people who would never connect were they not thrown together by a Gumtree ad. The male contingent comprises posh boy Mark, played in full obnoxious style by George Fletcher, and Tim, made thoughtful and compassionate by Callum Sharp in his professional debut. As Rose is to Cassie, Tim is the polar opposite to his male counterpart; caring, quiet, thoughtful. All four seem to present the extremes of their characters, and there is an issue of believing they would have anything to do with one another in real life, especially Mark and Tim, who are supposedly university friends but display nothing that would link them even then.
But even with under-developed themes and characters played out to their extremes, what cannot be denied is that Eigengrau does deliver a fine and at times thought provoking performance. It sails through its one hour fifty (with interval) running time, and in fact it could maybe afford to run a little longer, so that more meat could be added to those bones.
What isn’t underplayed is the theme of relationships, with all their complications. Rose is seeing Mark, but it’s very clear Mark is always looking for a new conquest, and his latest target is Cassie. Complicated, given that Rose and Cassie share a flat. Then there is Tim; soft, caring and unsure what he wants from life except, that is, for Rose. As is often the case, she mistakes his interest for that of a good friend.
The four-strong cast deliver well. Katie Buchholz’s optimistic speeches about love and beliefs are a delight, especially when played up against the more pragmatic and cynical Cassie. Her belief in happy ever after and willingness to do whatever is needed to achieve it, coming to a shocking (and literal) head when she offers Mark the one thing she believes he wants from her and will make him love her.
Eigengrau is an interesting and enjoyable piece of theatre with moments of both laughter and shock that make it deserving of a bigger audience than the dozen or so present on the night I was there. It’s also a play that might improve with a little rewriting, allowing those themes and characters a bit more depth.
Written by: Penelope Skinner
Directed by: Georgie Staight
Produced by: Frances Livesey for Dark Skies Theatre
Booking Link: https://www.waterlooeast.co.uk/eigengrau
Booking until: 22 September 2019