Cyprus Avenue – Red Phoenix Theatre

Cyprus Avenue – Red Phoenix Theatre

“Cypress Avenue”, Red Phoenix Theatre’s latest production at Hindmarsh’s Holden Street Theatres, is a very different ‘evening’ from anything you might have experienced over the years.

Here is a company that is not afraid to break new ground. In all the years I’ve reviewed them they have never selected a bad play.

This is the year’s most invigorating production, whether amateur or professional!

Director Nick Fagan has excelled himself after Phoenix’s Directors, Michael Eustice and Libby Drake picked “Cypress Avenue” from Nick’s six suggestions.

Brant Eustice has never been better, with a tour-de-force performance completely getting inside his Irish character, Eric, who believes that his baby granddaughter is Gerry Adams.

He even paints a beard on the baby’s face!

From the outset you realise Eric is a mentally broken man, but its not until nearly the end that you realise just how broken he is.

His 20 minutes monologue dissecting life in Northern Ireland and its sectarian violence, Ireland’s strained relationship with England, and nationalism, coupled with the joys of life in Ulster are worth the price of admission alone.

“If I had to choose between God and Ulster, I’d choose Ulster!”

However, when Brendan Cooney appears in Act Two as a masked, manic terrorist, here is another brilliant performance, also the finest of his distinguished career. The dialogue between them  sparkles with unintentional wit, with Brendan refusing to kill the baby because he has to attend an anger management lecture that evening!

This is not to forget Lyn Wilson as Eric’s wife, Emily Currie as their daughter, and Rhoda Sylvester as a psychiatrist. All contribute significantly.

If I have one criticism it’s that the set is too far away for the intimate scenes between Eric and Ms Sylvester.

Nevertheless, it’s David Ireland’s exemplary writing that grips, with Michael Eustice summing up as … ‘an examination of the abandonment and denial of mental health in our society!’

Rush to see this extraordinary production before it ends, because you won’t be moved dramatically as much for a very long time!

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