Interview: Kevin Mandry, Eros

Sure, you love women. You love them when they’re flawless. You love them when they’re silent. You love them through a lens. It’s just a pain when we actually turn out real…

Writer Kevin Mandry returns to the White Bear Theatre in Kennington following the success of Flowers in the Field, a critically acclaimed study of early twentieth-century folk-song collectors, back in 2014. His new play, Eros, is a topical three-hander about the female body, consent and agency, set in the 1990s at the dawn of the Internet. The play’s central character, Ross, is a former glamour photographer forced to reconsider his motives when one of his subjects, Kate, returns with a very different recollection of what happened 20 years earlier.

Eros is about the way images skew our view of the world and ourselves – specifically in this case, images of women – and men’s view of them,” explains Kevin, a freelance writer whose theatrical productions and commissions include The Tricycle Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Orange Tree, Young Exchange, Churchill and Birds Nest Theatres and BBC R4. “Ross has a line: ‘I was never in the business of exploiting women, I was in the business of exploiting men.’ Whether you finally decide he’s either sincere or right, it’s an unusual angle to come from…”

Kevin wrote the play after observing a younger generation raised in a world that’s dominated by screens: “The internet means that we now live in a world dominated by images, and they have become our everyday currency – but we can still just about recall how it was before, and make the comparison.

“The visual image has always been the most immediate drug we have – one of the opening lines in the play refers to ‘an injection of pure pleasure, straight into the brain’. Will we ever find a healthy balance? As with any addiction, it’s either going to take a loooong time, or a major crisis.”

The play, starring Stephen Riddle, Anna Tymoshenko and Felicity Jolly, and directed by Stephen Bailey, opens at the White Bear this week, and Kevin hopes that audiences will leave with plenty of food for thought. “I hope they’ll take away a – tragic? – sense that arguments are rarely black and white, that human beings are complex, self-contradictory and flawed, and that our capacity for fantasy and even our good intentions can have unforeseen outcomes. It’s also a romantic story, about a love affair – or rather, two love affairs, even if they’re both rather unusual – and in many ways that remains the deepest and strongest kind of story.”

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