Simon Stephen's says he is his favourite living playwright but of the two plays of Robert Holman's I've seen it is one all on the appreciation stakes.
Making Noise Quietly didn't really make much of a impression but I was totally blown away by Jonah and Otto. In fact it was the latter, together with the casting of Matthew Tennyson* that had me running to see Holman's play Breakfast of Eels at the Print Room.
The plays are similar in that they are two-handers - Andrew Sheridan joins Tennyson - and both share a beautiful, emotive subtlety.
Tennyson plays Penrose, the only son of a recently deceased judge. The family home is a crumbling mansion in Highgate, North London. His mother died some years earlier and the closest Penrose seems to have to family is Francis (Sheridan) whom you first assume is his brother as they both refer to the judge as 'daddy'. Francis is in fact his father's handyman/gardener, taken in by the family when he was a teenager and Penrose was toddler.
Penrose is a gentle and delicate soul who feels awkward in society and a disappointment to his father. Francis' background is somewhat different, his roots are in the north and he has a love of the land and nature. As they come to terms with their grief the two talk, reminisce and reveal secrets in a way that is quietly probing. Their discourse is slow and considered, the secrets puncturing a contemplative air without melodrama.
Holman's writing is poetic and lyrical. Sometimes Penrose and Francis sound like they are from another time and then they say something that could only be contemporary prose. Music plays a part in recalling the past and Tennyson sings with a voice that is both beautiful and haunting.
It is a play that requires patience but you'll be rewarded with something that is emotionally gripping and affecting without being able to work out quite why.
You can catch A Breakfast of Eels at the Print Room in Notting Hill until April 11 and it is two hours and 15 mintues with an interval.
*First spotted Matthew Tennyson in Flare Path where he made a big impression. He was still at drama school at the time.
Matthew Tennyson was in Flare Path with Sienna Miller who played Mr W's girlfriend (I know) in Layer Cake.