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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Royal Court Theatre Upstairs  January-February 2016

Two half-brothers live in a squalid flat, spending their days playing video games and evidently surviving on what they nick from the local off license. Their mother drops in from time to time, usually drunk, drugged, in a diabetic coma or some combination thereof, and usually to borrow or steal something to pawn.

And then a girl wanders in, and for a brief time it looks like the boys' lives might lurch a bit in the direction of normality. But the misery you know can sometimes feel safer than the happiness you don't. 

Anna Jordan's play, here in a coproduction with Manchester's Royal Exchange, has some small things to tell us and some small bits of reality to illuminate. But they're not enough to warrant or support the interval-less hour-and-three-quarters of Ned Bennett's ponderous and glacier-slow production. 

Too little happens too slowly and in too big a space and too elaborate a staging. There is perhaps an hour's drama here, and in a smaller theatre like the Gate or Trafalgar Two, a more intimate staging might communicate the claustrophobic and inward-turning nature of the boys' lives and a stronger sense of opportunities lost. 

But even the Royal Court's upstairs studio is too large and airy a space, dissipating any sense of atmosphere or reality and forcing the actors to be ever more frantic in their attempts to create it. 

You will not believe for a minute that the characters played by Jake Davies and Alex Austin are thirteen and sixteen years old, as we are told rather late in the play they're meant to be. But the actors do, through sheer exertion, convey some of the bottled-up energy the boys' lives give them no way to release. Sian Breckin (mother) and Annes Elwy (girl) provide generous support in underwritten roles.

Gerald Berkowitz

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