The Flu Season

first_img2/529 JanuaryWill Eno’s The Flu Season sends out a very clear message: ‘This is drama! You need to switch your brain on.’ It’s a message that in some ways can only have the opposite effect on its audience. The play shows us a budding romance between two inmates in a psychiatric hospital (Andrew Johnson, Lucy Murphy) being treated by a clumsy doctor and nurse team (Sam Bright, Amy Mulholland).The really brain-busting bit comes with what this production calls ‘the meta-theatrical level of the narrators.’ Eno has a pair of narrators provide trite commentary on events during every scene change. They come out with vapid gems like: ‘is repetition a failure of daring or a step towards deliverance?’ This device shows that Eno lacks faith in the strength of his original story. It’s a lame trick to add depth and pseudo-sophistication to a play without bothering to build them into the plot itself.What redeems this show is the sensitivity of its production. Johnson and Murphy deliver beautifully tuned performances throughout the nervous development of their relationship. Eno’s patronising approach to characterisation seems to be: ‘Aren’t mad people sweet and funny.’ However, these actors give their roles a dignity that makes the grim conclusion surprisingly moving.Along with Mulholland’s slightly daffy nurse, the central couple respond well to the surreal drift of the language, with its non-sequiturs and subverted word order. It seems unfair that this show got a reviewer who so disliked the play itself. You might love engaging with Eno’s commentary on his own work or the self-conscious cleverness of the narration. These things pissed me off and distanced me from the wonderful work of the production itself. It is charming in spite of its material, which must be some sort of Sam Pritchardlast_img read more

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