Review: Brian & Roger – A Highly Offensive Play by Christopher Walker

Well, you are warned. “Brian & Roger – a Highly Offensive Play” lives up to its billing.

In an age when even Shakespeare comes with trigger warnings, this should have flashing red lights, and a man walking in front with a flag.

Packed with the kind of sexual and scatological jokes that used to be common in ‘student reviews,’ it pushes the audience to our limits.

Some people walk out – others split their sides laughing. Depending on where you feel you’d be in that spectrum, give it a try. After a stiff drink.

Excessive “wokery” has driven comedy underground for those who don’t meet the approved political formula. Literally in this case.

This show inaugurates a new basement ‘studio space,’ The Mixing Room, previously called “the Bunker.” No wonder we’re plumbing the depths of what’s appropriate.

It’s the latest venture from the fabulous Menier Chocolate Factory and therefore guaranteed to become a new fixture on our vibrant fringe scene.

The venue is well set up, and much more comfortable than some other “new” spaces.

This two-hander is inspired by Dan Skinner and Harry Peacock’s hit podcast “Brian & Roger.

Dan performs as well as writes, while Simon Lipkin replaces Harry who has withdrawn from the production on “medical advice.” I guess he read the script.

Brian & Roger by Harry Peacock & Dan Skinner ©Nobby Clark

The writing is very tight, and certainly inventive.

The premise is that two “blokey” guys have met at a group for recently divorced men. They are both in different ways “losers,” believe me it is easy to see why their wives got frustrated.

This is particularly true of Roger who is one of those hapless people we all know who constantly make bad decisions, one after the other. Dan Skinner has him down to a tee, I just hope it’s not true to life.

Roger’s worst decision of all, undoubtedly, was befriending Brian. Brian is a “Del boy” like character, if less lovable. In fact, he’s not very nice at all. He’s constantly involved in dodgy deals with the Romanian mafia, not least a sadly believable venture to build a highway from China to Eastern Europe.

Simon Lipkin gives a strong performance, not always easy when replacing one half of a duo who clearly work well together.

This is made easier by the formula applied, by the writers and director David Babani. There is only one scene where they directly interact, and that is in the pitch dark.

Otherwise, the set-up is a series of telephone messages each leaves for the other. This can feel a little frustrating at times.

The production team, and in particular the use of video backdrops is simply outstanding. A clever trick to pull of so many scene changes visually.

Robert Jones deserves credit for the set, Paul Anderson for the lighting and Timothy Bird for the videos.

The running joke throughout the play is how the hapless Roger is constantly exploited by his equally incompetent, but much more ruthless friend.

This odd couple stumble through various bizarre situations, from a Romanian poker game in a Wiltshire abattoir, a computer heist involving dodgy plumbing and a snake filled room, and some very outlandish sex clubs in China.

There’s one real surprise, and plenty of laughs along the way.

Though you feel guilty laughing. At times Brian’s exploitation of Roger is beyond cruel.

Roger’s credulity is pitiable, but then I have met people like him. So have you.

Your ‘Maiden Aunt’ and the Romanian Ambassador are unlikely to be fans of this piece.

Maybe you’re different.

For tickets go to https://www.menierchocolatefactory.com

Brian & Roger – A Highly Offensive Play by Harry Peacock & Dan Skinner ©Nobby Clark

 

 


 

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