BWW Review: MY BROTHER'S KEEPER?, The Playground Theatre
In a shabby NHS ward, Mr Stone (Andy de la Tour) is turning food down and slowly dying after a stroke. After a major fall-out years before, his sons come together for the first time to attempt to convince their father to stop withering away. The subsequent hour sees them getting at each other's throat refusing to loosen the grip on their own pride.
Family resentment, sibling rivalry, and the disastrous situation of the NHS service coexist in this timeless bubble created by award-winning playwright Nigel Williams back in the mid-80s and now directed with precision by Craig Gilbert. An "ordinary English family" is cracked from the inside and with little-to-no potential to become whole again.
The text has aged incredibly well and appears fresh and timely both in the portrayal of a household in distress and in its political landscape. This said, it's impossible not to count in the shocking and under-acknowledged underlying privilege that runs throughout the entirety of the play.
As the brothers, David Partridge (Samuel) and Josh Taylor (Tony) share a callous relationship. Tony, a relatively famous playwright, keeps going head to head with his economist brother Sam who's always been jealous of the bond he was able to have with his dad, a thespian. This becomes excruciating when information about their point of rupture seeps through.
Kathryn Pogson is a feeble but unresting Mrs Stone: she carries out her marital duties to her husband dispassionately because, as she explains to Tony, that's what happens after 47 years. Williams draws a tight link between generations through their differences, tying the emotionally driven father and writer son together and putting them in opposition to the more analytical Sam and his mother.
A solid piece of drama that manages to remain so after more than 30 years, My Brother's Keeper? delivers a meticulous investigation of the internal gears of a dysfunctional family.
Photo credit: Bertie Beor Roberts