The Eisteddfod – Theatre Review

You catch your breath because you realise what is funny is at the same time horrifying.

The Eisteddfod -Theatre Review

Written by Lally Katz
Directed by Liz Arday
With Leila Ruban and Heath Ivey-Law
Etcetera Theatre until 9 April 2017


The Eisteddfod is one of those few plays – short, compact and incisive – which sets your mind racing many days after you have seen it.   You continue to ruminate about the many implications and meanings of the scenes in the play, which at first seem whimsical, funny, but which turn out to be quite disturbing.  You catch your breath because you realise what is funny is at the same time horrifying, you are witnessing the lives of the two main characters, siblings Gerture and Abalone, who were orphaned as teenagers and now living their adult lives in a capsule of imagined experiences.

Leila Ruban’s Gerture is intense; she swings between a child-like innocence to what could pass as the emotions of a fully-grown, lovelorn woman. Except that the object of her desire resides in the fertile land of her imagination and gives cause for a lot of bottom shifting, uncomfortable role-plays with her brother Abalone. There are thoughts you dare not entertain, not yet anyway.

Heath Ivey-Law’s Abalone is simultaneously funny, threatening, cruel and even frightening. While he finds himself in the same predicament as Gerture, and appears to be the main driver of this pantomime in this house of mirrors, his meltdown brings up even many more questions.

The Eisteddfod, written by the well-known American playwright Lally Katz is a razor sharp play that delves into the minds of two underdeveloped adults. The play seduces us to embark on a trip which starts out with childhood innocence, and then descends into a nightmare of murky familial emotions and finally leaves us at the precipice of eternal loss.

There is no doubt that director, Liz Arday stays close to the premise of this play. Her direction draws the audience in, to participate in this merry-go-round. As you get comfortable with the laughs, you are snapped back to reality that this really is about two adults trapped in a ‘doll house’. Liz Arday’s tight direction keeps the play moving, balancing precariously on this seeping aura of malice and dread which threatens to erupt at any time. Leila Ruban’s ‘Mother’ figure, utterly dysfunctional and destructive, brings us face to face with our worst fears, the thing we had thought all along but dared not name.

Etcetera Theatre in Camden is the perfect setting for the play. The size, the lighting, the sound and the stage presence of these two fine actors leads the audience into the heart of this play, so that when you leave you feel you may have been complicit in the whole affair. Go see it – this is a perfect opportunity to experience this vibrant, mesmerising theatre event.

The Eisteddfod is on at Etcetera Theatre until 9 April 2017