Review: OUT OF SEASON, Hampstead Theatre

There’s more than meets the eye to Neil D’Souza’s bittersweet comedy

By: Feb. 23, 2024
Review: OUT OF SEASON, Hampstead Theatre
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Review: OUT OF SEASON, Hampstead Theatre

The past is a literally a foreign country for the characters in Out of Season. Chris and Dev, old friends and former bandmates, have returned to the Ibiza hotel where they spent their university lads’ holiday. Thinning hair and middle age won’t stop the former from clinging onto the vestiges of their youth. Chris is out on the lash while Dev, now a music professor, would rather read Death in Venice than drop pills and rave.

The odd-couple set up is well worn, but there’s more than meets the eye to Neil D’Souza’s bittersweet comedy.

The spine-tingling cringe at watching middle aged blokes descend into juvenile antics and try to recreate the days where Cool Britannia ruled the airwaves is almost overwhelming. We shudder at their locker room banter and the casual misogyny it orbits, but D’Souza peels back the layers to find a beating heart beneath.

Watching, Chris, a failed rocker stranded on the pub gig circuit strum morosely into his guitar (who brings a guitar on holiday?) is completely silly. As is the Jungle remix of Mahler’s 5th symphony. As is watching Chris delicately spray cologne into the air then to declare “it’s ultra masculine. It’s oud.”

But the connection he forms with Catrin Aaron’s Amy, a parallel middle-aged holidaymaker, as they launch into an impromptu rendition of House of the Rising Sun has a quiet poignancy. As laughably pitiful as it seems, D’Souza gently pulls the rug from under us to reveal a quiet but disarming dignity to Chris’ tragedy; no wonder he wants to relive the glory years.

Review: OUT OF SEASON, Hampstead Theatre

Through it meanders into predictable territory with the late arrival of walking ick Michael, the Fiji water-swilling, alpha male bully of the bunch; wider ideas organically stem from the inevitable clash: racism, privilege, and, most curiously of all, the commercialisation of the music industry. Michael, a jet setting music agent, boasts of his Coachella playing clients. Dev, lovably nebbish and played by a gorgeously dead-pan D’Souza, has penned a tome on Dvořák.

It’s not the first play to put insecure men and toxic masculinity in to the limelight, but Out of Season’s honest integrity lends it an undeniable charm, as does the way it poignantly weaves reflections on the nature of getting old with Carry On style antics.

Janet Bird’s brilliantly tacky set perfectly captures the plastic cheap and cheery claustrophobia of a budget hotel. Everything from the balcony tiles to the wafer-thin bed sheets is pitch perfectly atmospheric. Alice Hamilton’s astute direction keeps the pace tightly knit. Or should I say it doesn’t miss a beat.

Out of Season plays at Hampstead Theatre until 23 March

Photo Credit: The Other Richard