Will Eno is a New York playwright with a sharply increasing UK profile. For the uninitiated, Oh, The Humanity provides a perfect introduction to his work, comprising five playlets covering a broad base of themes, styles and concerns.
It was first seen in 2007 and has already dated somewhat, though Erica Whyman’s production for Northern Stage (which debuted last year) is lucidly staged and pitch-perfectly performed by Tony Bell, Lucy Ellinson and John Kirk.
It starts strongly, with Kirk delivering a monologue brilliantly titled Behold the Coach, in a Blazer, Uninsured, which sees a down-on-his-luck football coach explaining his shambles of a season whilst mourning a lost love. As with the later pieces, lines jump out like fish from a stream; "My life is like a sunset – stunning, and then over," he reflects.
Next we see a deeply middle-of-the-road couple in the familiar set-up of a dating agency video. This was my least favourite of the five, feeling as it does redundant in a world of internet dating and at odds with the originality of its companion pieces (though again there’s the odd peach of a line: “I’d like to start a family, or at least finish one”).
Enter the Spokeswoman, Gently provides Lucy Ellinson to chance to showcase her off-beat comic skills as an inexperienced PR trying to deliver some shocking news, followed swiftly by the lightest piece, a neat sorbet involving two photographers trying to catch the audience’s souls. And the finishing playlet Oh, The Humanity rounds the evening off in style, proving absurdly comic as a couple realise the onstage car they’re driving isn’t moving because “it’s just chairs”.
All told it’s a slightly uneven evening but Whyman coaxes the best from her cast, while designer Andrew Stephenson provides an immaculate toy-box set that pulls off the optical illusion of seeming suspended mid-air.
Eno proves his ability to communicate contemporary concerns with dramatic precision; and with Thom Pain running in tandem at the Print Room, he’s clearly having something of a moment.