- Arcola Theatre
- Until 6th November, 2021
- From £15
Broken Lad is a new play written by Robin Hooper, running at the Arcola Theatre’s Today I’m Wiser festival. Together with other plays, shows, and exhibitions, the festival focuses on people’s desire for change. The most striking element of Broken Lad is the strong characterisation and uncompromising depiction of their many obvious flaws. Even though the subject matter was handled in a comical and exaggerated way, their portrayals reflected reality and helped to maintain a very relatable, though torturing, narrative. The protagonist is Phil, a 60-year-old divorced comedian played by Patrick Brennan, and the eponymous ‘Broken Lad’. Toxic masculinity is the weakness of Phil who has lost the respect of his community as a result of his selfishness and apparent indifference.
... you could consider most of the characters in the play ‘Broken Lads’.
Phil’s son Josh (Dave Perry) is an influenceable young man who wants to follow in his father’s footsteps, provoking a rivalry between the father and son that extends beyond their personal relationship and into their work together. Alongside these men on stage are Josh’s overprotective yet dependent mum Liz (Carolyn Backhouse), and his dishonest and narcissistic girlfriend Ria (Yasmin Paige). Both Backhouse and Paige stood out for their body language and use of space — particularly in the moments absent of dialogue. The cast is completed by Ned (Adrian McLoughlin): an old man who still has hope in finding a partner. McLoughlin as Ned brought a natural positivity to the play which consistently helped to lighten the mood. Brennan’s performance of Phil was very genuine yet conveyed his arrogance and inelegance in a near perfect way. Whilst the title refers to him, you could consider most of the characters in the play ‘Broken Lads’. Perry as Josh, for example, is able to move the audience in one of the most dramatic and intimate scenes of the play.
There was care and attention to detail in every aspect of the play — particularly evidenced by the great use of props (Cecilia Trono) throughout. These included empty beer bottles, a worn-out sofa, a used Tesco bag, and even a Henry hoover; all of which added to the authenticity of the scenes. On a stage barely the size of a small room, these details played an important role in crafting an atmosphere appropriate for the play. On a rainy and cold evening, the intensity of disputation between the characters came across much stronger, especially with the outdoor theatre and an audience sat very close to the stage.
Overall we recommend this obscure comedy for its raw and honest depiction of reality — this cast is not one to miss!