Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene

It’s a truth of life that the better you are at something in your work life, the worse you are at the same thing in your personal life. For example, I know lots of good builders who finish a job on time and on budget with regular frequency but whose own homes are full of unfinished projects. Dentists have bad teeth, doctors smoke and drink, etc. In Loretta Monaco’s Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene at the White Bear Theatre, we find out that therapists are often the most mucked up head-wise.

Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene
Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene

Hannah (Abigail Moore) and her husband Tom (Jonathan Hansler) are therapists, well sort of. Hannah is a traditionally trained and qualified therapist while Tom is a Dramatherapist – yes, it is a real thing – who also teaches at the local university. The family is completed with an archaeologist son called Graham (Bruce Allinson) who is away a lot, something Tom is glad of as he and his son have never really got on. Hannah and Tom work out of the family home seeing various analysts including Susan (Zara Hadeshian) upset at having a stillborn baby, and life should be fairly easy for a pretty run-of-the-mill middle-class couple. However, Tom has started a relationship with one of his students, Addie (Alexandra Etudor) a lady much younger than him, and Hannah is aware of the situation. The two inevitably split with Tom moving into a small flat and Hannah keeping the house. But they decide Tom can still see his clients at the house so as not to disrupt them too much. Things could settle down again for the couple and Hanah, then Graham comes home and, not to put it too finely, a lot of unfortunate stuff hits the fan, causing major repercussions in everyone’s life.

Loretta Monaco has penned an interesting play that, at its heart, is a tale of a family that has never really been fully together breaking down very publicly. On the surface, the characters are fairly standard but there is much going on underneath, with deep-held frustrations and secrets ready to leap to the fore when called upon. The problem is that none of them are particularly likeable, making it rather difficult to sympathize with them. I did think that Addie was the most rounded of the characters. She may have been young, but she knew her own mind and was not above using the men of the family to her advantage. The role was well played by Alexandra Etudor. Also, I will mention Zara Hadeshian as the patient Susan. If I’m honest, I’m not totally sure what the character added to the storyline – but I may have missed something – but the actor really delivered the heart-wrenching story well.

Director Bryan Oliver has a nice set designed by Liberty Monroe to work in which, thanks to the lighting by Jodi Rabinowitz split the stage into two apartments without having to move any furniture around. However, there were a couple of times, especially when in a certain corner, where actors were slightly in the shade.

Overall, Transgression: Life in the Aftermath of the Eocene is an interesting play that, for me, felt not completely finished. I always like a play where there is some speculation about what happens next, but I don’t think any of the character’s stories had a complete ending. The running time was around ninety minutes, including what felt like an unnecessary interval, and the story held the interest throughout.

3 stars

Review by Terry Eastham

It’s the 1990s and the societal revolution to smash the nuclear family is on the horizon. A psychoanalyst battles against the demise of established traditions, while younger women debate pregnancy and the relevance of a father’s name on a birth certificate. It’s all an uphill campaign to rattle the patriarchy until a father and son face an unthinkable quest. When the dust settles a new birth order awaits future generations.

As sheer entertainment, Transgression is a ferociously funny play underpinned by intellect and the conflicts and desires that make going-it-alone a viable contender to romantic coupling and all its compromises.

Playwright Loretta Monaco is a writer who enjoys exploring the witty aspects of seemingly complex and fraught-ridden relationships.

Carnyx Production Presents
Written by Loretta Monaco
Directed by Bryan Oliver

16th – 27th January 2024