The 1960s saw the rise of London’s ‘Black Trinity’ – David Bailey, Brian Duffy and Terence Donovan – who arguably were responsible for ‘packaging’ ‘Swinging London’ to the rest of the world. Of course, they were also the archetypal celebrity fashion photographers – the tropes of their excesses mirroring Led Zeppelin’s behaviour as the quintessential rock band (most famously parodied in Spinal Tap). But nobody stays in the limelight indefinitely and today’s ‘darlings’ become yesterday’s news… Written by Kevin Mandry and directed by Stephen Bailey, Eros takes place in the mid-1990s, when dial-up internet connections were just beginning to be used, and glamour models adorned popular ‘lads’ mags’ such as Loaded and FHM.
As a veteran of the halcyon days of the 1960s and ’70s, Ross (Stephen Riddle) has fallen on hard times. Running a small studio in a rough part of town, he takes any sort of work he can get. It is, however, his ‘assistant’ Teri (Felicity Joly) who keeps the businesss running during his long periods of absence. Asides from answering the phone and passing on messages, it is left to Teri to assauge Ross’ creditors or potential clients. But her guileless nature doesn’t understand the reasons for his ‘ducking and diving’, which at times lands him in hot water. However, Ross’ Sisyphean existence draws to an end, as a face from the past turns up on his doorstep…
As Kate – a potential client and successful businesswoman – Anna Tymoshenko’s character contrasts sharply with the others in the play. Worldly-wise with a wry sense of humour, Kate’s demeanour and conversational references are perplexing to Teri. While Teri has natural intelligence, it’s obvious that there are things we take for granted that she doesn’t know, simply because of a lack of exposure to people. While Kate talks about (among other things) the circumstances of the models of yesteryear and their ‘vulnerability’, Teri has the very real problem of being homeless and being rejected by her peers. She’s also able to talk with authority about what sort of man Ross is now, unfettered by the prism of history.
Be that as it may, Kate’s presence marks a prescient line of questioning that will be prevalent 20 years later, regarding the aesthetic pressures on models and women in general. But while one may expect Kate to be in full accusatory mode, her relationship with Ross is more nuanced, akin to that of Picasso and one of his ‘muses’. Once upon a time they had a ‘moment’, but the ‘art’ always came first and ‘love’ in many ways was one-sided.
Eros‘ references to ’90s computers and their limitations offer a wry perspective about how computers has changed our lives in such a short period of time. But while technology has evolved exponentially over two decades, human beings as a rule are resistant to change that isn’t gradual. For the likes of Ross, is there a point in one’s life where it’s impossible to change, even if it’s one’s best interests..?
© Michael Davis 2018
Eros runs at the White Bear Theatre until 15th September.