Hampstead Theatre Summer 2007
It is the hottest summer in memory and everyone is restless. Grandfather lives from meal to meal and dreams of summers past; father seeks refuge in the company of a woman from town; and young Lily sits by the river at night and tries to hold on to memories of her dead mother.
It is eeling season, and the image of the eels who have swum upriver to spawn, shed their skins and writhe around in a tangled mass is made a strained metaphor both for Lily's emerging sexuality and for this family that has to break with its torpor and move on.
The problem with Neil Leyshon's new play is that it is all metaphor and mood for almost all of its length. Only in the last few minutes do two characters who have been avoiding each other sit down and have an unlikely conversation in which truths are spoken, amends are made, emotional contact is re-established and everyone will live happily ever after.
It is too little, too suddenly, too late. Leyshon's play simply hasn't had enough to say, even for its less-than-90-minute length, and for most of the evening we've been watching what seemed like the extended background and preparation for a play that was never actually getting started.
The cast and director Lucy Bailey work hard but they are attempting to create characters the playwright has defined by inaction and non-communication.
As a mood piece, trying to capture the weight of heat and darkness and oppressive silences and the stirrings of life that cannot be repressed, Glass Eels might have worked better as a short story. There simply isn't enough drama here, internal or external, to hold the stage.
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Glass Eeels - Hampstead Theatre 2007