Arcola is one of the few theatres where I have to have a good reason not to see one of their productions, the others are Riverside and Theatre503. They have built a formidable reputation with me through the quality, variety and interest of the plays they put on.
So I would probably have gone to see Eldorado even if it was a musical about penguins. It was actually a dark comedy set in a war zone and so just the sort of thing I like to see anywhere.
This was a Saturday afternoon so my pre-performance drink was a latte and my lunch was some cake. The ex-theatre spaces, such as booking office and bar, are important and the new-new Arcola has a nice cosy feel to it.
The seats in the front row of the central block are cosy too and I was organised enough to get my usual place.
Eldorado was about failure and hope. There is a clue in the title.
The failures included a troubled marriage, a lost career in music, a miscarriage, another lost job, a broken teacher/student relationship and a failed business. But there was hope in all these too, a troubled marriage is not a failed marriage, losing a job is an opportunity too and students progress.
Outside various armed groups were fighting over parts of the city while optimistic developers were constructing new buildings for the returning citizens. Former war-zones are good investment opportunities.
A married couple were at the centre of the drama and connected to them were her student, his boss, her mother and her mother's toy-boy/business partner.
Most of the drama happened in their grand modern house. This is where they talked, entertained visitors and where she gave music lessons (the piano is in the dark corner on the left).
And there were a lot of events in the personal relationships, business dealings and outside world. The story whizzed along taking us with it, desperate to find out how it all ended.
But the events were really just there to switch the emotions and so we were also bouncing up and down between joy and despair as we galloped forward. If that sounds a little tiring, well it was, but in a good way. We got involved and were keen to see the issues resolved and the happy ending emerge.
And it sort of did. OK, so some people died, some relationships broke irretrievably and other bad things happened but the final image was one of strength and resolve (admittedly combined with sorrow).
I caught the wife, Amanda Hale, very briefly as we were both leaving and congratulated her on her performance overall and especially for the final scene and before she could run away she said that she was pleased that I had caught the two sides to that final moment. I did not have time to also complement her wardrobe, which was a shame. The red outfit at the start of the second half was striking.
Eldorado was a busy play with several strands to follow all of which added to the thick emotional stew. It was dark but not bleak. It was also very real. I loved it.