“I think you need to believe in something”
The metropolitan loneliness epitomised by Penelope Skinner’s Eigengrau seems as appropriate in London-by-the-sea as it does in the London where it is set, indeed one can feel this alone anywhere. Cassie’s passion for her political activism continues to set her apart from others her own age, Mark has got money but is struggling to hold onto his mates, Tim is using his grief for his nan to avoid getting on with life and Rose, well she’s just struggling to reconcile her dream of true love in a world full of bastards and bills.
As their paths variously intersect, they all reach out in the hope of connection, of finding something tangible in a city that never stops moving past them but life is never quite as easy as all that, especially when sex is thrown into the equation. And so begins the whirl of Skinner’s extremely funny play, given a solid production here by Hannah Joss which focuses on just how sharp the writing is as brutal truths follow amorous deceptions, and hopeless fancies turn into desperate actions.
James Sheldon’s smoothly charismatic Mark is brilliantly seductive, effortlessly charming women into surrendering to their deepest desires, even if it compromises their very beliefs, and more than happy to accept an ill-advised offer of oral sex even whilst breaking up with someone. Annie Jackson’s committed Cassie is a sterling adversary, her banter with Mark is believably bolshy and underscored with real humour too, their scenes together form the backbone, and the highlight, of the show.
Lotti Maddox’s scatty Rose and Nicholas Stafford’s dishevelled Tim fare slightly less well, their characters a little less complex, their motivations a little more straightforward, and consequently not quite as interesting for all their efforts. And the late swerve into melodrama lacks an effective crispness here that might have injected the impact needed to truly chill the blood. Still, it’s largely extremely funny where it needs to be and a pertinent reminder of how loneliness can be as dark as the colour we see when there’s no natural light (which is what eigengrau is, in case you weren’t sure).