EIF 2013: First Love Review

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Gate Dublin Theatre
Samuel Beckett (playwright), Toby Frow (director), Eileen Diss (set designer), James McConnell (lighting designer)
Peter Egan
Running time

First Love, an hour-long soliloquy performed by a single character, was engagingly received by a sell-out audience at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre. Dimly lit and sparsely staged, the piece concerns the story of a tramp who falls in love with a woman he meets on a bench. She becomes pregnant, he moves into a house with her and then discovers she is a prostitute before they part company.

The tale is told retrospectively by the tramp, whose tale is coloured with grotesque humour and deepened by mumbling confusion. He doesn’t appear to recollect the name of his former lover with accuracy, as this interchanges between Anna and Lulu at different stages in the story.

Drained of any romance and striking in its mundaneness and simplicity, the piece seems disturbing in its description of harsh, destitute reality. One feels sorry for both the tramp and the prostitute with whom he falls in love. The sorrow we feel is intensified by the way in which the tale is told – the humour, which at times had the audience in loud and sudden hysterics, initially hides the grim and eerie world of the tramp, but this then hits us so very much harder as the laughter dies down.

Further disorientation arises from the mental confusion of the tramp - his jumbled words, substituted vocabulary and muddled recollection of the series of events.

Peter Egan’s performance was appropriately restrained. He could have animated the piece with dramatic energy, but chose not to - playing his character with slower-paced, calm and light-hearted rambling.

The gin-sodden voice and soft Irish accent brought roots and depth to the character. Sexually detailed metaphors, artfully voiced by Egan, added both humour and vivid creepiness simultaneously. On stage, there was simplicity too – just the bench, the door and the window that we needed. This jolly, wise and accepting tramp took us deep into the frighteningly oppressive life of a hard, lonely and unloving world.

Runs til 30 Aug

Tickets £8 - £20