Adam & Eve, written by Tim Cook, centres on a remarkably middle-class couple. Young, newly married and having just bought their first house, Adam (Lee Knight), an English teacher, and Eve (Jeannie Dickinson), an estate agent, with their feet now on the property ladder, decide to try for a baby. The pair banter back and forth, quick-witted remarks, finishing each other’s sentences etc., and seem sickeningly happy. That is, until Adam is accused by Nikki (Melissa Parker), a young female student, of messaging her inappropriately, which eventually elevates to a sexual relationship.
The play quickly becomes a question of ‘Well, did he do it?’ and throughout we are led to believe he probably did. He is remarkably calm about the situation and brushes the whole thing off. There is a chilling scene in which Adam gets too close to Nikki, and practically spits at her that “little girls” should do as they’re told. Early onset misogyny – right? Well apparently not, because, and if you’d like to avoid spoilers then I suggest that you stop reading now, it emerges that Nikki made it all up. We have no reason to disbelieve her up until now, and so this ‘gotcha’ moment falls rather flat. But, yes, a 15-year-old girl with a vicious vendetta made up such an extraordinary lie, and everyone believed her.
Confused? So was I. Let me explain. Eve and Nikki bump into one another in the supermarket that Eve works in, after Eve has divorced Adam. Nikki gleefully explains that her destroying of Adam and Eve’s marriage was a kind of project, because when she saw them together (for no longer than a minute at the beginning of the play when Eve brought Adam lunch at school), she decided that Eve needed help, that she was “weak”, and that would be better off without Adam. So, after reading Jane Eyre in class, and being given a homework assignment to write about a heroine in their life, Nikki chose Eve, a woman whom she doesn’t know, and invents this elaborately story, complete with fabricated evidence to take to the police – and she got away with it.
I’m not sure what’s more absurd, the idea that a schoolgirl has good enough Photoshop skills to fool the police force, the notion that having met Eve for 60 seconds could have provided her with the ammunition to conjure something up that is so ludicrous, or the nerve of Cook to try and hint at Nikki being some sort of new-age militant feminist, as she tells Eve that what happened to her was necessary “progress”. I’m honestly not sure what point Cook is trying to make here, the programme says Adam & Eve is partially about “feminism”, but it does about as much for feminism as Donald Trump.
The literary links to both Jane Eyre and the story of the biblical Adam and Eve are tenuous. They feel undeveloped and are alluded to only briefly, and therefore seem ridiculous when uncovered. Although all three cast members are competent actors and enjoyable to watch, I found them tainted by the material. In the age of Me Too and Times Up, a time when women’s voices are finally being heard, do we really need a play that reinforces the archaic idea of the ‘woman scorned’, plotting and inventing stories to punish men, when the reality is that this is an extremely rare occurrence? A thinly woven and irresponsible plot, Adam & Eve may just be ill timed, or it may be an attempted kickback at an important societal movement. Either way, it left a bad taste in my mouth.
Adam & Eve is booking at the Hope Theatre until 9 June
Photo: Hope Theatre