Happy New

Brendan Cowell
Old Red Lion Theatre

Happy New

Two young men live together in a small flat, they do not venture outside and trust no one but each other. The brothers, it seems, live a clean life as the play opens with them exfoliating the previous year away and debating which is the best facial. The flat is spotless and possessions minimal. It is only as conversation continues and they are interrupted by Pru (Josie Taylor) that it becomes clear that there is a lot of dirt surrounding the pair and that their past is indeed murky.

Questioning and observing the hierarchy of human society and the parasitic nature of the media, this is an unsettling piece that, whilst full of tension, is not particularly moving. Whilst there are also some biting one-liners, I would not suggest viewing it as a comedy. The dark themes lend a macabre edge to the play and the ending, although brutal, is not a total surprise.

Cowell’s script uses soaring and expressive language and, whilst the style is naturalistic, there is a sense of unreality surrounding the proceedings. Speeches occasionally sound rehearsed, but with this combination of characters it is difficult to tell whether this is a directorial decision or perhaps even a stage direction.

Josie Taylor is suitably sassy as the highly-strung and highly-manipulative Pru and her power over the brothers is easy to understand. Alfred Enoch gives the character of Danny a peculiar innocence and, despite his position as the dominant brother, there is a great vulnerability in his approach. Joel Samuel gives perhaps the most believable performance however, aided by his perfect pitch physicality. It would be far too easy to overplay the childish and yet threatening Lyle, and Samuel manages to capture both elements convincingly.

Happy New is an engaging piece of work and the interplay between the actors is a pleasure to watch. The pace is occasionally slowed by the characters' mighty flights of fancy, but if you are prepared to fully appreciate the language there are many arguments and ideas which are left partially unexplored. The attitude you take away with you may say more about you than the storyline itself.

Reviewer: Amy Yorston