Andrew Maddock’s Cyprus Sunsets is the latest installment in The Me Plays, and tells the story of Me who is journeying back to a Cyprus holiday resort solo in order to cure his heartache with a dose of relaxation, nostalgia, and the oft-mentioned Cyprus Sunsets.
The monologue, part of the Tristan Bates Theatre’s FIRST 2015 festival of solo performances, is 40 minutes in rhyme performed by Maddock himself, in which he outlines the trip’s events. He delivers the tale using a pacey barrage of rhyming couplets, though he is comfortable enough with the form to transfer into free verse where necessary.
The previous Me plays dealt with issues ranging from porn addiction and Tinder to the cultural fear of missing out: issues which are dying for someone like Andrew Maddock to bring them down a peg or two with cutting satire. This is unfortunately where Cyprus Sunsets begins to miss the mark.
Me, our protagonist, begins as an affable, shy and politely laddish 30-something – too old for a lads’ holiday – and there is witty mockery throughout the first movement of the piece. Fun is poked at the other package holiday participants, and the efforts made by themselves and Me to relax and amuse themselves.
Soon, however, the focus becomes the prospect of fatherhood. It turns out that Me fathered a child with a girl that he refers to as ‘La Isla Bonita’ (after the Madonna song), with whom he had a one night stand and a relationship. The pregnancy ends with a miscarriage, and the relationship ends with Me spouting vitriol at a woman who has just lost her first child. While Me accepts that he should not have done so, this is an issue that is soon glazed over. As a result he lost me.
From this point I found myself completely out of kilter with Me’s point of view. We were asked to pity him when the grief for his lost daughter pushes him to attempt suicide using sleeping pills; we weren’t expected to feel disgusted at his selfish behaviour when it is a young girl who discovers him “turning blue”, a presumably traumatising experience, and are still expected to nail our colours to Me’s mast when all he has to offer the girl and her family are his gratitude, and his pre-booked taxi back to the airport. He himself is gracious enough to slum it in the coach with the rest.
Having gone in to Cyprus Sunsets expecting observational satire on modern love and those holidays that all too many of us have tried diligently to forget, I was wholly disappointed to be faced with a life lesson that has its moral compass all backwards. Me is an inherently self-centered character who causes very serious emotional harm to strangers and loved ones alike, and yet the tone of Cyprus Sunsets paints him as the tragic hero. Andrew Maddock has put a great deal of thought into pithy remarks about winging holiday-goers, but in trying to give his piece a meaningful twist, has misjudged what is meaningful about it.
Andrew Maddock’s Cyprus Sunsets played at Tristan Bates Theatre. For more information, see the Tristan Bates Theatre website.