Robert Holman's play A Breakfast of Eels is a two-hander about two young men trying to find their way in the world after the death of the man they thought of as their father. It was first performed at the Print Room at the Coronet, London, on 20 March 2015.
The play is set in the present day in Highgate, London, and in Northumberland. When the play opens, the two characters, Penrose (aged 21) and Francis (aged 35), are preparing for the funeral of Penrose’s father. They both refer to the deceased man as 'Daddy', but it becomes clear that he was not Francis's father. Penrose seems emotionally immature and fey, while Francis appears more confident, even protective of Penrose, insisting that Penrose dress properly for the funeral. As the play develops, Penrose tries to gift the ancestral manor he's inherited to Francis, together with a small fortune in cash. They banter, battle, and bond over the course of five Acts, and both are changed, not necessarily in ways they understand.
The Print Room premiere was directed by Robert Hastie and designed by Ben Stones, with Andrew Sheridan as Francis and Matthew Tennyson as Penrose.
In an introduction to the published script, Holman explains that he wrote the play specifically for Andrew Sheridan and Matthew Tennyson to perform (both had appeared in previous plays of his: Sheridan in Holes in the Skin and Jonah and Otto, Tennyson in the 2012 revival of Making Noise Quietly). Holman goes on to describe how each of them contributed to the play: 'When Making Noise Quietly was over, Tennyson and I went for a walk along the Thames. I said how, now and again, I’d had a go at writing parts for actors and would he be interested if I was to write a play for him, and that at some point I would need the name of his character. The only thing I knew for certain was that I wanted the play to be set in London (Tennyson is a Londoner) and would he show me his favourite part of London? ... We must have walked ten miles that afternoon in the drizzle without an umbrella. He said he would show me Highgate Cemetery, and a few days later said "Penrose". Penrose is a character I never would have written had Tennyson not said what he did.'