Broken Lad ★★★ Arcola Theatre | Oct 13 - Nov 6, 2021


Robin Hooper's new play, Broken Lad, is about a down and out comedian attempting to make a comeback. As is so often the case with people who are funny on stage, the character is rather dour and tragic in real life and as a result the play struggles to produce laughs. The performances are certainly efficient but none of the characters are really sympathetic. The ageing stand-up comic, Phil (Patrick Brennan) seems reluctant to kick-start his career despite the efforts of Ria (Yasmin Paige) with whom he is having a clandestine relationship. She happens to be his son's girlfriend, adding a further complication. Dave Perry tries hard to make the son, Josh, interesting but the character lacks charm. The best performance comes from Carolyn Backhouse as the ex-wife and mother; this is the most believable character and is faultlessly delivered. Director Richard Speir succeeds in injecting some intermittent life into the proceedings and designer Cecilia Trono efficiently provides the dingiest of rooms above the pub where the gig is taking place. We cleverly catch a glimpse of Phil's act through a window onto 'the stage' where he appears to be going down a storm. There is an air of The Entertainer and Archie Rice throughout, but Hooper lacks Osborne's acerbic wit. There are too many pieces of extraneous plotting involving a number of unseen characters which causes the focus to become diffused. We were promised an "examination of masculinity in distress" but we waited in vain for a big climax.

Rated: ★★★

Reviewed by D.S.J.
Photo by David Monteith-Hodge.

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