Writer: Sam Bain
Director: Kathy Burke
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
Brotherhood or Buddhahood? That’s the decision Luke has to make in The Retreat, The Park Theatre’s new comedy directed by Kathy Burke. Should Luke become a monk, severing his ties with the outside world or should he return to London and its wily ways with his wide boy brother, Tony?
The Retreat is the first play written by Peep Show’s Sam Bain and it doesn’t disappoint in the laughs department. Indeed, the wisecracks come so thick and fast that it’s hard to keep up, and there’s something for everyone here: Dirty jokes, dad jokes, puns, and even some slapstick with a porn mag. But laugh at your peril because Burke’s direction is so quick and punchy that if you spend too long sniggering at one joke you may miss the next.
Samuel Anderson plays Luke who’s left his job in the city to spend three months on a Buddhist retreat in Scotland run by Daisy, who’s trying to channel her inner Tara, by dressing up like the Buddhist deity. Luke plans to don the robes of a monk at the end of his retreat and it’s all peaceful until his brother arrives, out of the blue, with some bad news. Tony wants his brother back, and while he’s at it, some money, too, to pay off his drug debts. Surely he has some claim on his brother’s worldly goods?
Tony is the best thing about this show. He has few ambitions and sees nothing wrong with a life comprised of ‘ watching TV and going on holiday and texting and having sex and talking and having a cup of tea and getting cancer and watching Game of Thrones and dying.’ Adam Deacon plays him wonderfully, both sullen and cheery, cheeky and irritating, with an answer for everything and, while he may not be the brightest spark in the box, he’s quick to see things as they are. Deacon propels this play in the same way as his character looks for the next line of coke: Doggedly, optimistically. He’s a joy to watch.
Underneath the humour is a fraternal competition between the ‘bad boy and the golden boy’, between Tony and Luke, both thinking that their way of life is more authentic. Tony can’t believe that his brother would willingly choose a life of celibacy, or, as he scoffs, put his ‘pecker in the deep freeze’. Tony suspects that something or someone else is luring Luke to this life of prayer. However, any deeper analysis of Buddhism is quickly railroaded by the next set of jokes. Both men are selfish in their own ways. They are cut from the same cloth, but it’s Tony who gets the best lines.
Deacon is ably supported by Anderson, and by newcomer, Yasimine Akram, who plays Daisy/Tara. The three actors work well together while Paul Wills’ fine set, the interior of a barely-furnished stone hut, perfectly fills the Park’s small stage. The 90 minutes fly by.
Overall, The Retreat provides an enjoyable night out, and it’s certainly funnier than any sitcom on TV.
Runs until 2 December 2017 | Image: Craig Sugden