Festival Theatre

The End of Eddy

The Studio

Four stars

Neil Cooper

A disclaimer of sorts opens Pamela Carter’s loose-knit adaptation of French nouveau enfant terrible Édouard Louis’ autobiographical novel, which caused a sensation when it was published when Louis was just twenty-one. This is delivered by Alex Austin and Kwaku Mills, the two tracksuit-bottom and t-shirted young actors who tell young Eddy’s story as well as play all other parts by way of video footage on the four TV screens that line the front of the stage.

This prologue sets out its store regarding what, exactly, the show’s young audiences will and won’t see over the next ninety minutes of Stewart Laing’s co-production between his Untitled Projects company and young people’s auteurs Unicorn Theatre. This is a neat and less discomforting way into Louis’ story, about how a small-town boy from a working-class background was brutalised for being different, only to take the leap into a world where he can be anyone he wants.

On one level, Louis’ tale of reinvention and transcendence through art is as familiar as Billy Elliot. In the telling, however, Carter, Laing and an essential technical and design team body-swerve sentiment and angst for something more playful. As Austin and Mills tag-team the narrative, what appears onscreen becomes projection in every way, with Eddy’s family depicted as Viz-like cartoon characters against a vivid pink or yellow background.

Carter’s script is always conscious of its literary roots, at times resembling a street-smart lit-crit show for aspirational teens. It also reimagines its source material as Eddy reimagines himself. One of the show’s most touching moments is when Eddy and his father bond over Celine Dion on the car radio. When Eddy shakes off his hand-me-down machismo by way of a Zen shedding of skin, as his past life goes up in flames, he takes on the world.