Thursday, 9 November 2017

Review The Retreat

An acclaimed TV comedy writer's first play has plenty of gags but is kept afloat by a fine cast and director, says Peter Barker.

The Retreat
by Sam Bain

What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love And Understanding?

Luke is burnt out by his life in London as an investment broker. There’s too much cocaine and too many hookers.

So after meeting Tara, a Buddhist, he grasps the opportunity to go to a spiritual retreat in the wilds of Scotland. 

But the arrival of his ne'er-do-well brother Tony destroys any chance of peace, calm and enlightenment.

The Retreat is Sam Bain’s first play, but he is already well-known as a TV writer - as co-creator of Peep Show, the movie The Four Lions and the recent sitcom Fresh Meat.

In this stage debut, his skill as a comedy writer is evident with a muscular use of language to produce laugh-out-loud moments. 

Bain may deliver laughs from an original and quirky viewpoint, but the play's plot and story nevertheless lacks any real point, punch or character development.

About the only serious points it makes are that cults are bollocks, the slings and arrows of life are unavoidable, and family is important. These are not original thoughts, but at least Bain makes them funny.

A former actor in Dr Who Samuel Anderson, as the Buddhist monk wannabe Luke, gives an assured straightman performance, while Adam Deacon proves himself to be be a definite comic talent as streetwise but inept brother Tony.

Yasmine Akram as Tara has a tougher challenge with an even more thinly written part  and it is to her credit that she makes something substantial out of the slightest of the three roles.

The set by Paul Wills depicts a stone hut in the present day Scottish Highlands and is an impressive facsimile of the real thing.

Kathy Burke, as you might expect from an experienced director and comedy actor, directs a slick production that delivers the gag-to-gag laughs and makes the 90-minute running time seem a great deal shorter, earning the play an  amber light.

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