"Return of the Prodigal Brother"
by Adam Cole for remotegoat on 23/02/12

Ever since Cain smote Abel, sibling rivalry has been an essential part of our cultural and literary traditions, bubbling through the centuries. At the Pentameters Theatre, actor and writer David Schaal takes aspects of his own life and throws them into the cauldron.

In his new play Brotherly Love (running until Sunday), he manages to incorporate sibling resentment, betrayal, infidelity, ambition, class, addiction, political fervour, jealousy and punk rock in just over an hour of drama. We witness Barry, an ageing recovering drug and alcohol addict, still full of the political passions of his socialist youth, unexpectedly visiting the home of his estranged brother Ian, who has subsumed his working class past and is determined to forward his career as a human rights lawyer. A judge and his wife are expected for a dinner party. But Barry is the salt in the soup, and will not leave until he has been able to make amends for a very major wrong. Literally central to this incredibly stormy reunion is Carla (played with a perfect balance of wide eyed wonder and knowing sass by Eva Gray), Ian's comfortably middle class partner. As the evening progresses, Schaal peels the onion, exposing new layers of deceit, twisted loyalties, and fresh revelation. The following morning, Barry is still there, determined not to leave until he has received absolution. As we begin to feel the events of last night could be resolved, Ian returns home after a lunch meeting, and the plot thickens afresh.

The whole piece is directed almost invisibly, the actors left to interact and become caught up in their own follies, past and present. Edward Law as "silver-tongued spiv" and "meddling twat" Barry, and Math Sams as arrogant and ambitious Ian, take a little while to settle into their sparring roles, but come to the boil very nicely indeed, Eva Gray stirring the pot expertly. The play could do with being fleshed out for another half hour or so, as the mix of very rich ingredients needs more time and space to be properly enjoyed. But there is more than enough here to satisfy a wide range of palates, and the soundtrack of The Jam, The Sex Pistols and Ian Dury left this ageing rocker eager to get home and pogo into the early hours of Thursday morning.

Event Venues & Times
Showing until 26/02/12Pentameters Theatre | above The Horseshoe pub, entrance in Oriel Place, 28 Heath Street, London, NW3 6TE

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