Seldom have I walked into a theatre to find the actors already on stage with melancholic emotions on their faces — emotions that often reoccur in SUDS’ adaptation of Amédée (or How to Get Rid of It).
Originally penned by French Absurdist playwright Eugene Ionesco, Amédée is suffocatingly immersive. But such immersion isn’t only content-wise. It’s extended to the very staging of the play in a set that’s cramped into the Holme Common Room, a last-minute space that (after the collapse of the Cellar Theatre) works serendipitously to create this play’s claustrophobia.
The premise is peculiar: the titular Amédée and his wife Madeleine Buccinioni are 45 years old, and have not left their rotting apartment for 15 years (and their rotting relationship for even longer). The former, played by Fred Pryce, is a conflicted character, ruled by inaction yet fuelled by optimism. He strikes confusion into an audience regarding his true intentions in true absurdist fashion — a stark contrast against Jasmine Cavanough’s Madeleine, who leaves us feeling every bit of anxiety, stress and despair she experiences.
The differences in their characters are reinforced by a depiction of their argumentative younger selves — it’s this non-linearity, and the cyclical nature of the play which make for some of the most intriguing aspects of absurdist writing. Also particularly interesting is director Helena Parker’s use of symbolism, with the corpse on stage increasing in size as an embodiment of the couple’s marital problems similarly growing bigger and bigger.
Continuing the symbolism, the set is strewn with bright red mushrooms designed by the talented Jess Zlotnick as if to reinforce the couple’s rotting and poisonous relationship. I was overwhelmed by just how small the apartment was, in wild disarray but commendably capturing the last strands of their relationship. Michael Goodyear’s lighting is also successful in highlighting the dark heart of Amédée.
Yet, despite its stellar production, the absurdity of the play, its layered meanings, and its implications of the benign nature of life left me rather confused. And perhaps that is the beauty of this genre. It leaves you questioning concepts and norms of life you’ve come to accept as normal. It completely changes your perspective on things and Amédée did exactly that. It changed my romanticised, Hollywood-propagated image of love, instead putting forward a bleak, fatalistic view of romance in a play that must be seen to be believed.