You can’t fault The Albatross 3rd & Main for originality of theme – its a pity that the execution was about as messy as the demise of Eric the eagle who plays the unwitting star of Simon David Eden’s play.
Albatross, which opened at London’s Park Theatre on Friday, is described as a black comedy but there are precious few laughs to be had in this 90 minute three-hander.
It didn’t help that it started off with a hoary chestnut of a gag about being put on hold by a foreign call centre – and that wasn’t aided by the audience only gleaning about one word in ten of Hamish Clark’s strangulated American accent.
But the concept was inspired. Eden’s plot surrounds the unexpected death of the endangered Eric (as he is later named).
He was an eagle which may – or may not – have committed suicide by dive-bombing the car (or should that be automobile?) of one tattooed, Yankee, lowlife called Ricky, affectionately known as his chums as Spider.
I’m not au fait with American wildlife laws but it appears that keeping – and, more importantly, selling, any part of a golden eagle is a felony offence, on a par with murder and armed robbery, that could land the perpetrator with their wings clipped in prison.
However, such is the demand, particularly among Native Americans, for feathers, claws and any other scrap of eagle, for use in ceremonies, that there’s a five year waiting list for officially released bits, bobs and plumage.
Spider thinks he can make a quick killing (literally) by selling the stinking, squished roadkill and he wants mate Gene, a down on his luck former lobster fisherman and store owner, to use his contacts on the local reservation to find a market for the bird that is now festering in a cardboard box.
But Charlie Allen’s hotheaded Spider hadn’t counted on, firstly, Gene selling his store to retired boxer Louis Lullaby Lee, a big lummox of a man who sweeps the floors and spouts informed trivia gleaned from “periodicals”.
And, secondly, Gene’s resistance to the get-rich-quick scheme out of fear of doing bird over the deal even though an ex-wife has landed him in $30,000 debt.
“I’m not going to the pen for cold cuts!” screams Gene hysterically.
Feathers fly between the three men when a paranoid Gene fears they’ve been rumbled and Spider becomes increasingly desperate.
So it’s all there but it sure needs work to make it funny and cohesive. The threesome, Hamish Clark as Gene, Allen as Spider, and Andrew St Clair-James as the lumbering Lullaby, don’t gel – and a lot of that is down to Simon David Eden’s simplistic direction.
The production is very static with the men standing around in the rundown general store taking turns to say their lines.
Clark and Allen’s US accents need a lot of work and, as endearing as Lullaby is, he’s straight out of central casting.
The first half moves along haltingly and, although the pace picks up after the interval, the plot never really brings out the absurdity of the situation.
The remains of Eric become a millstone – or Albatross, using the production’s metaphor – around the neck of the trio and I couldn’t help feeling that his demise had also cast a bit of a curse on this comedy.
The Albatross 3rd & Main runs at the Park Theatre until February 4.
The Albatross 3rd & Main
Simon David Eden’s black comedy The Albatross 3rd & Main has a great original concept for a stage play but it fails to fly off the page.