EIF Theatre review: Eh Joe

Eh Joe. Picture: Comp
Eh Joe. Picture: Comp
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IT’S not often that you see actors as well known as Michael Gambon on stage in Edinburgh. So this week, you’re in for a treat.

* * * * *

Royal Lyceum

Eh Joe was originally written for TV for actor Jack Macgowran (better known for The Exorcist). Adapted for the stage by leading Dublin company The Gate Theatre, we meet Joe, a man approaching the end of his life who’s forced to confront his past.

The past is all in his head. A disembodied voice, Penelope Wilton, addresses Joe warmly.

Wilton’s insinuating tones assault Joe with a series of stories he’d rather forget.

The action of the play rests with Joe. He sits on the bed in a dingy room before he rises, checks the windows and door are secure, turns the lights out and lies down to sleep. Only then does the voice in his head speak up. And we see Gambon’s face, projected across the stage, reacting line by line to his verbal assailant.

Gambon doesn’t speak. But his face tells you all you need to know to appreciate the impact of the voice-over’s tragic stories.

This is a stunning performance that proves, for a show in which the main protagonist is silent, astonishingly gripping. The production is flawless. A tawdry set, delicately lit, provides the perfect vehicle for the stage-sized projection of Gambon’s face. This is a superbly controlled production from director Atom Egoyan.

By the end, we realise that Joe’s greatest enemy is himself. You might be able to hide from the world, but ultimately, you can’t hide from yourself.