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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Red Bud
Royal Court Upstairs      Autumn 2010

This new play by American Brett Neveu tells a story you've seen too many times before for this version to have much effect.

A playwright would have to present some new angles or at least more rounded and sympathetic characters to offer something new, and Neveu just retravels well-trodden ground.

A group of friends in their thirties gather, as they have every year since their teens, at a motorcycle race that is really just an excuse for a weekend of beer drinking, pot smoking and general rowdy bonding.

But there are signs that they're getting a little old for this. One guy has lost his job and is in serious financial trouble, one is about to be a father, the most mature among them has fallen for a 19-year-old girl, and so on.

And the unacknowledged tensions bring out old resentments and buried animosities that bode ill for the continuation of this tradition.

Well, yes, you can't stay a kid forever, and growing up isn't fun, and friends are likely to drift apart, and a veneer of friendship may well cover small grudges that grow through not being vented.

You've heard it all before, even if you've never seen a play in your life (It's a recurring staple plot line on soap operas), and Neveu really doesn't have anything new to say about it.

Meanwhile the characters are little more than walking labels - the Midlife Crisis, the Guy Not Ready To Be A Father, etc. - and a hard-working cast and director Jo McInnes are unable to flesh them out and make us care about them.

Special credit to designer Tom Hadley, who captures the sight, feel and even smell of farmland turned into festival campground, so that your first sensory impressions as you enter the playing space may be the most real-feeling experience of the entire evening.

Gerald Berkowitz

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Review  of Red Bud - Royal Court Theatre 2010

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