Slapstick comes to the National Theatre: One Man, Two Guvnors
Before the Exit Line at the The Horse

Ingeniously positioned loos and Little Eyolf at Jermyn Street Theatre

Little-eyolf_1888118b Prior to my first visit to the Jermyn Street Theatre @3rdspearcarrier tweeted me that it had the most "ingeniously positioned" toilets which immediately made me wonder if I should pay a visit before I left home.

This studio theatre is accessed via steps straight down from the street, passing a cubby-hole serving as box office where I enquired as to the whereabouts of the loos. "Across the stage," was the reply quickly followed by "you can't use them during the performance."

I can just see myself elbowing Imogen Stubbs out of the way to get in before the interval queue forms, well actually I can't, I'm mortified if I so much as clear my throat during a performance. But yes, you do have to cross the small but perfectly formed stage to reach the loos, so I can add Jermyn Street to my list of 'boards I've trod on'. (I nearly wrote 'been on' then but in this context thought better of it.)

Anyway loos schmoose, what was the play like? Well it's set around the Allmers family who have a crippled son Eyolf. Mother Rita (Stubbs) is a hand-wringing, needy woman of heightened passion, seemingly on the verge of hysteria.

Her husband Alfred (Jonathan Cullen) has just returned from a long walking trip having had some sort of life-changing revelation, the result of which is that he has decided to devote his life to being a father to Eyolf.

Alfred and Rita don't see eye to eye about Eyolf, the roots of which lie in the latter's neediness. She feels resentful towards Eyolf for dividing her husband's love for her, a love that is obviously on the wane.

Then tragedy strikes and lifts the lid on a whole can of feelings not just for husband and wife but also for Alfred's sister Asta (Nadine Lewington).

It is certainly a tense play from the outset - this isn't a happy family. Not one to brook hysterical behaviour it would be easy to have little sympathy for a character like Rita and certainly there are times when I did want to slap her. But ultimately Stubbs succeeds in delivering such a heartfelt, wounded performance that I was nearly moved to tears.

This is a play about being trapped physically, emotionally and socially. The irony, it could be argued, being that little crippled Eyolf is the only one that really gets the freedom.

Stubbs's is the standout performance but overall this is quality theatre, simply produced in theatre so small you could almost put it in your pocket and take it home.

Little Eyolf is runs until May 28 and I'm giving it four stars.


Easy peasy Imogen Stubbs played Ben Whishaw's mum in Hamlet (she was in the audience when I went to see him in Cock back in 2009). Which is a good excuse to run a little piccie (click for a bigger version).