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Eggs (Vault Festival, London): Review

Eggs The future's bright. Amarni Zardoe (left) and Florence Keith-Roach (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Simon Annand.

Eggs is an incredibly spiky and smart comedy, exploring an unabashed look at modern femininity, friendship, and loneliness.

Girl 1 is an IVF baby, struggling artist, and unemployed dog walker. Girl 2 is a successful business woman with looks and a love life. Both share a deceased university friend and a fractious friendship with each other. Eggs explores notions of companionship, loneliness, and sexuality in a modern female world.

Eggs

The future’s bright. Amani Zardoe (left) and Florence Keith-Roach (right). Photograph: Courtesy of Simon Annand.

Writing

It’s difficult to know where to start with Florence Keith-Roach’s writing, as Eggs hits the ground running straight off the bat. As soon as Eggs begins, the characters’ egos and sentiments are established, and the biting one-liners come thick and fast. It knocks the wind out of you for a bit to begin with, but as Eggs goes on, you find a rich yolk of truly outstanding writing. The prominent feature and intelligence of Florence Keith-Roach’s writing becomes apparent very quickly, and you begin to see Eggs for just how deeply and brilliantly cutting and smart it is. Through the lives of two self-absorbed twenty-something women, we’re plunged deep into their anxious self-centred worlds with unabashed honesty. Both Girl 1 and Girl 2 speak candidly about their opinions, lives, and even things like masturbation, sex, drugs, and 1990s house music. Nothing is shied away from, but at the same time, there isn’t anything in Eggs that feels like its there to needlessly shock, making Eggs effortlessly feminine and current.

Florence Keith-Roach’s portrayal of modern femininity is incredible, especially as it has no real outright political agenda and creates characters that are very “as is”. Female issues are dealt with the complications of personality and character flaws that make them feel more realistic, complicated, and provocative, rather than something dryly ideological. At the heart of Eggs is just a portrayal of people trying to overcome the challenges of general life, with warts, neurosis, fears, and all. There’s a really touching sense of companionship between Girl 1 and Girl 2, even though its fraught and questionable, but none the less engrossing and captivating to watch. Even though some might feel that Eggs doesn’t have a clear and definite narrative, for all the detail and dynamics of Girl 1 and Girl 2’s lives and dealings with each other, it’s an intriguing joy to watch them succeed, fail, and everything in between.

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On the lash. Amani Zardo (front) as Girl 2 in ‘Eggs’. Photograph: Courtesy of Simon Annand.

Binding this all together is Florence Keith-Roach’s biting comic wit. There is a brood of razor sharp passages that are laugh out loud funny. But what Florence Keith-Roach does to ensure Eggs isn’t just a comic fling is lace many of these with deep pathos and thought. There are many times where you’re giggling away before Florence Keith-Roach slams on the brakes, or just awkwardly wonder whether you should be laughing or crying: it’s a surprisingly human device that keeps you involved with the characters and the subjects even if they are going through some rough times. But it’s not all ha-ha he-he, and there are some beautifully poetic passages that attempt to sum up serious issues, such as mental health and depression. In just how lucid and darkly luscious they are, their juxtapositions from the laughs give them an incredible impact.

Furthermore, within Eggs is also a lot of very careful and meticulous imagery that ties everything together. Eggs themselves are the strongest abstracts that are explored in a large number of ways and contexts to draw unexpected parallels, adding a real sense of intelligence to the entire piece, marking out Eggs as a really complex and meticulous piece despite the frivolities and laughter that come through it. In short, Eggs is an absolutely superb piece of writing, let alone a triumph of female theatre.

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Local yolkal. Florence Keith-Roach as Girl 1 in ‘Eggs’. Photograph: Courtesy of Simon Annand.

Direction & Production

Orphee Production’s production of Eggs is one that really mirrors Florence Keith-Roach’s depth of intellect and intricacy. Everything about Clementine Keith-Roach’s set is in orange and white, symbolising an egg’s contents. But it also serves to make a homey and flexible space for Eggs to play out in, without much ado or clutter. Lucy Hansom’s lighting design also adds warmth, colour, and also some student rave lighting, all of which subtly brings out a mood and sentiment that lifts the text, alongisde Jon McLeod’s equally as thoughtful sound design. It’s a humble production, but one that’s geared towards letting the text and performances thrive.

Lucy Wray’s direction is one that really pushes the energy throughout Eggs, but is not scared of screeching to a halt when various things snap. Wray knows when to keep the comic pace going, never letting anything go to chance or waste, but plays with Florence Keith-Roach’s tragi-comic juxtapositions to dramatic effect, really prying out the natural awkwardness of Eggs’ characters and the intellectual quality of the play’s explorations.

Performances

Florence Kieth-Roach and Amani Zardoe give spectacular performances. Both really inhabit their character’s egos, riffing off the riffs in the friendship, but often touching on some tender intimacy between them that reeks of a very real honesty about the women their characters are. Comically, both of them have excellent timing and deliver their zingers with cat-like reflexes. But in both Florence Kieth-Roach and Zardoe’s performances, its really the detail and the understanding of the character’s flaws that make them compelling, especially when the chemistry onstage between them is strained and resentful, but with a lick of deep dependency and anxiety.

Verdict

Funny, feminine, and unexpectedly deep, Eggs is an astonishing piece of new writing that’s far from having egg on its face.

Eggs plays at the Vault Festival, London, SE1 7NN, until 6 March 2016. Tickets are £16 (concessions available). To book, visit www.vaultfestival.com.