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Posts Tagged ‘Simon Haines’

Before it even starts, and in the introduction, we meet two characters who are about as far from straight white men as you can get. They are called ‘persons in charge’ and their role appears to be to subvert our perceptions of what this play is about.

In no time at all, we’re in the home of widower Ed, who lives there with his eldest son Matt. It’s Christmas and Ed’s other two sons arrive, successful banker Jake, divorced with children, full of bravado, and teacher / writer Drew, a gentler, more cerebral being. Much of the play is given over to Christmas traditions, including matching pyjamas, and sibling joshing and banter, until Matt’s unhappiness surfaces.

He’s left his human rights career behind and is now in a temporary job. He seems to have lost his way in the world. His dad wants to set him free by paying off his student loans, Jake wants to help him get his confidence back and Drew thinks therapy is the answer. This is where the underlying themes come to the fore. The difficulty of achieving fulfilment, living with privilege, the growing desire to opt out of the rat race, or even abandon work altogether, resisting the pressure of having a career at all.

It’s a great tribute to the four actors – Simon Rouse as dad Ed, Charlie Condou as troubled Matt, Alex Mugnaioni as Jake and Simon Haines as Drew – that you believe in them as a family; only siblings could interact like this with each other and with their father. The Christmas rituals, though American and specific to this family, somehow seem familiar. I’m not sure the presence of the ‘persons in charge’ really works, but it adds a quirkiness I suppose.

A personal story with universal themes; a well written new play by Young Jean Lee, staged by Steven Kunis, designed by Suzu Sakai, with movement from Christina Fulcher, all of whom bring the realism that is the key to its success. Well worth a visit.

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Well, the first thing to say is that they aren’t. The reason for the title becomes clearer as the show progresses, though it may also be a marketing ploy. It’s a 30-year-old American chamber musical set in the world of 80’s stand-up comedy which hasn’t had an outing here for over 25 years.

The first act takes place in three stand-up clubs as three comics move from solo acts to a threesome, and on a flight to LA for their big break on the Johnny Carson Show. In the second half they get an agent, their own TV show, a world tour and disillusionment before finally breaking up.

The first part, where we see their very different solo acts, is sometimes excruciating and embarrassing. This is no doubt intentional, but excruciating nonetheless, and for me the show never really recovers from this. The material throughout is patchy and the score very inconsistent. There are excellent moments – a whistle-stop journey from the 50’s to the 80’s – but too many weak spots for comfort.

It’s badly dated and the material isn’t really worthy of the three talented performers – Simon Haines, Guy Wolf and Benedict Hastings – or the excellent 5-piece band under Josh Sood.

I usually enjoy these Finborough rediscoveries, but in this case it proves there are sometimes good reasons why a show hasn’t been produced for 25 years. The Finborough is also renowned for it’s excellent air-con, but for some reason on this occasion it was the Finborough Sauna, which didn’t help.

 

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