dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
A corpse in the bedroom puts a marriage at risk
Eugène Ionesco's crazed farce, Amédée, is given a re-write in this new adaptation for Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company.
Josie Lawrence and Trevor Fox play couple Amédée and Madeleine, whose domestic gripes hide a much bigger problem in their marriage. What begins as complaints over who does the cleaning and who works the hardest, quickly reveal the real cause of their unhappiness – they have a dead body in their bedroom. Not only that, but it's been there for 15 years, has aged and is now growing rapidly, risking to take over all the space in their tiny flat.
Writing in a post-World War Two France, a country which had been riven with conflict and extremism, Ionesco championed the Theatre of the Absurd – and there is plenty of absurdity on show in this play. Aside from the lengthening corpse, there are also the couple's bizarre work habits – with Amédée a frustrated playwright who can only create a few lines in his lifetime and Madeleine a frantic telephone exchange operator flicking between calls for the president, calls from the president and calls wanting to know more about the president.
Fox and Lawrence adeptly handle roles which many would find challenging, making them human and likeable despite the madness of their situation. While both are their own caricatures, they retain a familiarity which means we recognise aspects of our friends, families and even ourselves in their exaggerated mannerisms and relationship.
Josie Lawrence as Madeleine
Premiered at the Studio at Birmingham Rep, the production is adapted by Sean Foley whose previous works have included The Play What I Wrote and Jeeves and Wooster in Perfect Nonsense. Foley pulls the production into the modern day with a few topical references and ensures there is plenty of dark humour. Who can help but laugh when Madeleine tries to calm her husband with the comment 'everyone has problems'?
Directed by Birmingham Rep artistic director Roxana Silbert, the production is well-paced and lively with a great rapport between Fox and Lawrence. Designer Ti Green creates a suffocatingly crowded space in which we have to picture this couple living trapped for 15 years and Craig Denston deserves a mention for his fantastically adaptable corpse model.
Amédée won't be for everyone – it's insane storyline and sometimes repetitive dialogue clearly left some theatre-goers more than a little baffled. But it makes for a fun and interesting piece of theatre with some solid performances and lots of ideas bouncing around.