Broth­ers lack­ing back story make un­con­vinc­ing com­edy

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - THE­ATRE JOHN NATHAN The Re­treat

Park The­atre

WHEN IT comes to com­edy ve­hi­cles that just never get started, let alone fly (this metaphor will stop any mo­ment now) un­rea­son­able be­hav­iour has to be up there with deeply stupid peo­ple. Both al­low a com­edy writer to just not bother with the far more dif­fi­cult, but much fun­nier prac­tice of writ­ing a char­ac­ter who be­haves in a way that we might in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances.

And so when Sam Bain’s sib­ling com­edy, di­rected by Kathy Burke, re­lies on one brother dis­play­ing Asperger’s lev­els of in­sen­si­tiv­ity to gen­er­ate laughs, alarm bells ring.

Burnt out City high-flyer Luke (Sa­muel An­der­son) has found an an­ti­dote to his self destruc­tive drug­fu­elled life­style. With the play set in a stone hut some­where on a Scot­tish moun­tain (part of the re­treat of the ti­tle) we first en­counter him in Bud­dhist rit­ual. All is peace and calm. Then, with a crash, bang and wal­lop, en­ter his brash older brother Tony (Adam Dea­con) who wouldn’t know karma from ko­rma.

Granted, it turns out that the streetwise Tony has done some sen­si­ble googling on the re­treat’s very at­trac­tive (and un­der­writ­ten) fe­male owner Tara (Yas­min Akram), to whom Luke has promised nearly a mil­lion pounds from the sale of his flat. But pretty much ev­ery­thing else that Tony says and does re­flects a blunt crass­ness. The hip hop he plays while Luke at­tempts med­i­ta­tion is typ­i­cal.

As a com­edy ve­hi­cle, the con­trast­ing odd cou­ple sce­nario can work bril­liantly. Step­toe and Son, for in­stance or, well, The Odd Cou­ple. And Nutcracker the Bafta-win­ning Bain, who is co-cre­ator of Peep Show, knows this bet­ter than most.

There is a mo­ment when it ap­pears his play, Bain’s first, has dra­matic po­ten­tial. It emerges that the broth­ers’ par­ents died when they were young, and we learn that while Luke in­vested his in­her­i­tance in a flat, Tony blew his on hav­ing fun, which is why he lives with his brother, and so has an in­ter­est his brother not giv­ing the pro­ceeds from the sale away.

But there is never an at­tempt here to ex­plore how one brother ended up so dif­fer­ent from the other. I kept on think­ing of Miller’s The Price, in which the older sib­ling is less cul­tured than the younger be­cause he had more re­spon­si­bil­ity. That must have been the case here with Tony. Though this wouldn’t ex­plain why he is far less ma­ture than the younger Luke. In­stead, th­ese ques­tions are left an unan­swered and un-asked. Things are the way they are, we’re told. Take it or leave it. Per­son­ally, I’d leave it.

PHOTO: CREDIT CRAIG SUG­DEN

Sa­muel An­der­son as Luke in

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