Magical and richly imagined, this show sadly failed to live up to its ambitionsJohanna Lee

Following the story of the lonely Þjòsr (Val Gladkova) and the immortal, nonbinary jester Sasha (Diego Matos), Eidolon by student writer Sieve Bonaiuti takes its audience on a journey through a magical forest as we piece together the true nature of the characters and the fantasy world.

Much of the play consists of extended duologues between the two main characters, who played off each other very nicely at times. Matos’ Sasha did a great job of undercutting the Þjòsr’s melodramatic misery with some funny quips and one-liners, particularly at the start of the show. Bonaiuti’s moments of comedy served to break up the often lengthy speeches that made up the majority of the play. These comedic moments felt almost like a Mitchell and Webb sketch at times, with plenty of (intentionally) awkward pauses under the direction of Fyn Clark.

“There was potential for much, much more”

The show had a great premise, and it was clear that Bonaiuti’s world was incredibly rich and had great potential to draw the audience in much deeper - unfortunately I think we needed more help from the writer to understand what was going on and engage emotionally as the play developed. The 11pm start time certainly didn’t help: It became particularly difficult to keep track of what was happening plot-wise as it approached half midnight. Long run times can work against a play’s merits, and this is the case in Eidolon for sure: as we got to the end of the show there were multiple points where I thought we were listening to the speech that would conclude the evening, only to find that there was another ‘final’ scene. I appreciate that the writer probably didn’t set out to give us a clear, coherent path to follow - which is totally fine - but the line between surreal and nonsensical is a difficult one to tread.

"Much of the play consists of extended duologues between the two main characters, who played off each other very nicely at times"Johanna Lee

There were definitely moments of emotionally stirring writing in this play and there was potential for much, much more - we just needed that little bit of extra help and explanation to understand what was going on and engage meaningfully with the rich and complex characters created by Bonaiuti and brought so skillfully to life by the actors.

“The fairy lights bathed the stage in a soft light, creating a magical energy throughout”

Diego Matos gave a stellar performance as Sasha. His delivery of the jester’s perplexing lines was dynamic, and his brilliant reactions and constant energy really brought this character to life. Sasha and Þjòsr formed a nice double act, often providing a helpful counterbalance for each other. The main duo’s conversations were also broken up by the sinister Creatures of the forest (Ben Ward, Harry Dixon-Spain and Linnea Tyback). From their deeply unsettling performances to their fantastic costume and makeup, these Creatures were honestly quite scary. They added a nice edge to the production and switched up the pacing occasionally.


Mountain View

Circle Mirror Transformation is warm and forgiving

The set, designed by Kacper Rybinski, was simplistic, making use of wooden poles and fairy lights to represent the trees of the forest. I think that this was probably the best way they could have gone about creating a magical woodland, as it’s difficult to create a convincing, naturalistic fantasy set in a theatre even with a massive budget. That said, it might have been interesting to see if the set could have gone further, maybe with some projection work to further immerse the audience in the landscape of the story. The fairy lights bathed the stage in a soft light, creating a magical energy throughout. The high point of Tungsten Tang’s lighting design had to be when a monster was created through shadow puppetry. The formless beast’s true horror was left to the audience’s imagination. Much like with the set, this was probably the best way of trying to create a monster on a tight budget, although the fight scene with a monster might have benefitted from some kind of sound or music to go alongside the flashing lights, just to make it that much more intense.

I came in to Eidolon really wanting to enjoy the show, and I certainly don’t regret the experience, but I think an exciting premise and well put-together production was let down slightly by a story that was just a bit too long, and just a bit too convoluted for the audience to join its characters on their journey for the whole way.

Eidolon is on at the ADC Theatre at 11pm from the 27th to the 29th of January.