When Simon David Eden’s directorial debut, The Albatross 3rd and Main, opened its world premiere in Brighton’s very own Emporium Theatre, I was not entirely sure about the sort of performance I was about to witness. Inspired by author Eden’s travels across the USA, Albatross depicts three no-hopers who continually seem to be robbed of the American Dream.
That is until a glimmer of hope appears after a typically tragic scenario for the trio as Gene is engaged in an expletive-ridden phone call between himself and Deepok, who tells the former that he must pay his ex-wife $30,000 in divorce proceedings. Set in the shop of Lacy’s 3rd Main in a sleepy, blue-collar backwater of Massachusetts, New England, the three hapless men – Gene, Kevin, and Lewis – suddenly get wind of an eagle whose feathers are worth their weight in gold.
Though this initially appears rather random, Eden’s placement of it in his production is due to America’s Federal Law which maintains the protection of eagles in the States. Despite being set in modern times, Albatross seems to have a sense of timelessness about it.
I believe this to be deliberate on Eden’s part as he makes the point that although many countries appear to be increasingly progressive, a significant proportion of them still hold tight to the archaic laws that formed the bedrock of their nation. On a more localised level, this production foregrounds the strong friendship that will take place between Gene and dim-witted Lewis in spite of Lewis being virtually useless at his job – one instance being made abundantly clear as he begins to unstack some shelves that he had only stacked five minutes beforehand.
Always all too ready to point out his flaws, however, is wannabe mastermind Kevin. Constantly positing himself as superior to the other two, his arrogance is punished at times with him being mocked for mistakenly saying Stockhouse Syndrome instead of Stockholm Syndrome as well as Gene and Lewis’ attempted assassination of him towards the close of the play.
Albatross renders itself a punchy satire that takes a big swing at cultural imperialism as it explores the dark flip side of Federal law and wildlife conservation. Indeed, the cyclical nature of the play – the trio end up helplessly trapped in the shop as what the audience can only presume to be the police stand outside knocking heavily on the door – reflects the redundancy of trying to challenge Federal Law.
There is a significance in Gene holding a single, immensely valuable eagle feather at the end as it represents that in America there can only be one winner – the law. Though I did not overly enjoy the performance, I admired the messages I thought it was trying to get across.
Displaying the mantra that old habits die hard, the play seemed to look at whether a nation’s legal framework was responsible for many of the prejudices held today.