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Eden review at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs – ‘thought-provoking, spine-tingling’

Michael Simkins and Yolanda Kettle in Eden at Hampstead Theatre Downstairs. Photo: Robert Day
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Hannah Patterson’s new play is based on the 2008 controversy in which the Scottish government gave permission to Donald Trump to build a luxury golf course complex in Aberdeenshire, on an official ‘site of special scientific interest.’

There were accusations of collusion (quelle surprise), and notably, one farmer – Michael Forbes – refused to sell his land, disrupting the development.

Though Patterson has fictionalised the situation, you know exactly who it’s about. Jasmine Swan’s costume design includes that iconic red cap, and Matthew Xia’s direction invites the audience to laugh at the ridiculousness of the man with a subtle but hilarious reference to his relationship with Kanye West.

The play, however, focuses more on the people than the situation, and Xia gorgeously draws out the intricacies of the relationships between the characters. Michael Simkins is excellent as the Trump-like Aaron Chase, as is Mariah Gale as Jane, the daughter of Sean Jackson’s farmer Bob. The chemistry between Gale and Yolanda Kettle, as her girlfriend Sophie – who also happens to be the marketing executive charged with trying to convince Bob to sell his land – is spine-tingling.

Ciarán Cunningham’s lighting design shifts from the starkness of morning to the romance of night. The deep pinks and rich purples of the final sunset chime exquisitely with the conclusion of the play.

Patterson’s play is about more than just a greedy billionaire drunk on capitalism. Eden explores the politics of power in relation to the delicacy of the human condition – and home, and how there’s no place like it.

Director Matthew Xia: ‘The moment you lose an audience member, you’ve failed’

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Matthew Xia directs a thought-provoking and frequently spine-tingling play about home and the human condition