THEATRE AT HOME REVIEW: Cyprus Avenue ★★★★

Cyprus Avenue
Royal Court Theatre, London
Thursday 14th February - Saturday 24th March 2019

Streaming now on The Royal Court’s Website, Facebook, and Youtube Channel, David Ireland’s Cyprus Avenue drew critical acclaim last year, and further transferred to The Public Theater in New York, as well as Dublin’s Abbey Theatre at The MAC Belfast. Released now as a film, which originally premiered on BBC Four last September, the story centres around Eric Miller (Stephen Rea), a father who is adamant that his newly born granddaughter shares the splitting image of Irish Republication Politician Gerry Adams.

Blending live performance with pre-recorded material filmed around Belfast, we first meet Eric having a conversation with his female Psychologist Doctor, Bridget (Ronkẹ Adékoluẹjo), though he is questionable surrounding who she really might be from the colour of her skin, something he has hardly seen in his lifetime, but is certain in expressing that he is not a racist. In the role of Bridget, Adékoluẹjo stands out as someone who is calm and collected, excelling in the role and keeping the distance from Rea, who she shares her only interaction with. Though at the beginning this may seem odd from a directional view, it soon becomes clear with the use of flashbacks that actually she is aware and weary of Eric’s thoughts and actions, to which we as an audience are only just settling in for the journey.

The flashbacks presented show snapshots of Eric's family home, where his wife Bernie (Andrea Irvine), and daughter Julie (Amy Molloy) subside. We watch as Eric interacts for the very first time with 5 week old granddaughter Mary-Mae, and straight away notices the resemblance to Gerry Adams; she’s the splitting image with her eyes, though of course without the striking beard. Rea’s performance in these scenes ramp up with hilarity and unease, balanced perfectly with a man who is clearly unhinged and will not take on anyone else's viewpoint. He dominates the stage at every moment, with Irvine and Molloy providing a further aspect of unsettling to their fears throughout, especially within the father and daughter relationship, and the abuse in which she encounters verbally and physically, to herself and her daughter. It’s later in the production where it becomes clear that we have been laughing for all the wrong reasons, as soon the laughter dies as a sense of dread is suddenly overwhelmingly palpable with the arrival of the final character in the story, Slim (Chris Corrigan).

Without giving too much away, Slim’s objective becomes very clear the moment we meet him, and although laughter has snuck itself back him as both Eric and Slim share a mutual feeling towards Gerry Adams, a secondary objective, and very much a proposal from Eric, soon turns the tide and we almost can sense exactly how the production will end. Corrigan delivers a performance that makes him hard to dislike, as being in his newly-appointed career carries some mixed feelings, and therefore we almost warm to his mannerisms and opinions.  It’s the final fifteen minutes though that truly take your breath away as Eric is once again back with his daughter, and I can guarantee that if you are sitting at home watching through a screen at this production, you will absolutely feel the emotion and sense of tension like you are in that very auditorium with the rest of the audience watching these harrowing scenes unfold.

Overall, Cyprus Avenue is thrilling, eccentric, and cleverly written in such a way that it will leave you feeling disgusted and moved by Stephen Rea’s palpable performance of a man who is stuck in his past and unable to move forwards with the thoughts and actions he now has to live with.

You can stream Cyprus Avenue now right here.


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