Review: Eve Ryman – Mercury Theatre, Colchester

The one journey we all face is that inevitable journey towards our final moments. It’s a journey that every man must take, or here that Eve Ryman (think about it!) takes. A woman who finds the sum of her life’s work being examined and tested as she faces death.

A collaboration between six women and six languages, Eve Ryman takes the familiar tale and gives it a contemporary twist. Regardless of our culture or beliefs, this is the final confrontation we all take, giving a shared understanding of the piece.

Devised and written by Janice Dunn, in collaboration with performers from Poland, Italy, Bulgaria, Denmark, Macedonia and England, this female ensemble guides an audience both physically and metaphorically through this fateful journey.

This is a journey of discovery as the audience are led through areas of the Mercury Theatre not normally associated with performances. We meet Eve first as a strolling balladeer in outside the main building and, as we progress through the building, we discover more of the characters in her life and indeed Death herself. The studio theatre, the foyer, the box office counter, the main auditorium, backstage and the exterior, all utilised to give a sense of progress and journey.

There are moments of breathtaking beauty around the building, strong uses of imagery, movement and sound climaxing in Eve’s eventual death in the theatre’s garden. Surrounded by burning tapers and draped in crimson silk, the audience are invited to pay homage with a plethora of white roses. It’s a moving climax to the hour we’ve grown to know Eve. This though is a celebration of life, rather than a dark journey into death – as the show ends we are urged to make the most of our lives and as the cast enter into a euphoric Eastern European folk dance its an oddly life affirming moment, despite the chill damp air.

Dunn’s direction copes well with the constantly shifting locations, shepherding the audience and performers along with pace without ever feeling rushed. The ensemble cast of Clare Humphrey, Maria Lohmann, Emanuela Pisicchio, Aleksandra Gronowska, Iva Ognianova and Sanja Arsovska overcome any language barrier with performances full of conviction and fun.

There are moments where the ad-hoc locations cause some sight line issues and there are moments that leave you confused as to the message being portrayed. In many ways, though, that just reflects our everyday lives, often an obscured view and a confused path.

A strong start to the Mercury Theatre’s International Festival and a clear demonstration that drama can easily cross national boundaries to create a tale that resonates with every man and woman.

Originally written for The Public Reviews

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