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The End of Eddy review at the Studio, Edinburgh – ‘harrowing study of small-town homophobia’

Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills in The End of Eddy at the Studio, Edinburgh. Photo: Ryan Buchanan The Studio, Edinburgh

Edouard Louis was just 21 when he wrote The End of Eddy. It’s an astonishing work, an autobiographical chronicling of his childhood in a poverty-stricken, post-industrial village in Northern France, and a deeply insightful study of masculinity, identity and small-town prejudice.

Pamela Carter’s new version, co-produced by the Edinburgh International Festival and London’s Unicorn Theatre, takes a fairly analytical approach to adapting Louis’ novel for the stage. It splits the character of Eddy Bellegueule – Edouard Louis’ birth name; he changed it later in life – in two.

In identical outfits, Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills present Eddy’s story, sometimes as themselves, sometimes as Eddy. The expansive stage of the Festival Theatre Studio is largely bare, save for four TV screens on adjustable stands, where recorded clips of Austin and Mills playing family members and friends appear.

Director Stewart Laing handles the interaction between stage and screen well, even if it needlessly obscures the story at times. Austin and Mills have a gleeful, knockabout energy, slipping between characters slickly and smiling beguilingly at the audience as they pore over Louis’ book.

The story they conjure up is a traumatic one, with precious few flashes of hope or happiness. From a young age, Eddy battles homophobia from all sides. It’s to the credit of Carter and Laing that they pause to contextualise this prejudice, presenting Eddy’s tormentors not simply as villains, but also as victims of the same hierarchical, heteronormative system.

Harrowing stuff, at times, but thoughtfully presented.

Verdict
Stripped-back, analytical adaptation of Edouard Louis' acclaimed autobiographical novel

Production

Production
The End of Eddy
Venue
The Studio
City
Edinburgh
Starts
August 21, 2018
Ends
August 26, 2018
Authors
Edouard Louis
Adaptation
Pamela Carter
Director
Stewart Laing
Set
Hyemi Shin
Sound
Josh Anio Griff
Costume
Hyemi Shin
Video
Finn Ross
Technical
Nima Sene (assistant director)
Production manager
Nick Millar
Cast includes
Alex Austin, Kwaku Mills
Producer
Sarah Jane Murray, Untitled Projects, Edinburgh International Festival, Unicorn Theatre
Running time
1hr 30mins