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The Retreat, Park Theatre, review: ‘Dizzying number of laugh-out-loud punch lines’

PUBLISHED: 18:00 10 November 2017

Samuel Anderson and Adam Deacon in The Retreat. Picture: Craig Sugden

Samuel Anderson and Adam Deacon in The Retreat. Picture: Craig Sugden

CRAIG SUGDEN

Kathy Burke has directed the play starring Samuel Anderson, Yasmine Akram and Adam Deacon

Given Sam Bain is the BAFTA award-winning co-writer of TV’s Peep Show and Fresh Meat, the bar is set high for his first comic play.

But there aren’t many writers who are able to write successfully for both stage and screen (Ben Elton being one exception).

This naturalistic three-hander fizzes with a dizzying number of laugh-out-loud punch lines but the characters never evolve and Bain’s handling of the debate between spirituality versus materialism tires.

High-flying banker Luke (Samuel Anderson) has left his London life for the serenity of a retreat in the Scottish Highlands. Going cold turkey from his capitalist lifestyle in a small stone room (neatly conjured through Paul Wills’ pretty, modest set) is made infinitely more palatable by the presence of stunning fellow Buddhist Tara (Yasmine Akram).

Fetchingly dressed for most of the time as a Goddess, Tara looks like a ‘sexy shrek’ in her garish headdress and covered in green body paint. Ever-present to keep Luke on the path of righteousness, Tara disapproves of the arrival of his older brother Tony (Adam Deacon), a distracting walking disaster of arrested development with his sketchy employment history as a courier, disastrous marriage and rampant enthusiasm for a smorgasbord of drugs.

But while both their concern initially appears altruistic, their vested material interests in Luke’s future surface and questions about the truth behind different faiths and ideologies are simultaneously raised.

As the central debate cranks into gear while the brothers take up their heavily polarised positions, the opening is underpowered but Kathy Burke’s assured direction soon compensates.

Adam Deacon is brilliantly cast; charming and infuriating in equal measure with his wheedling and insistent Patois twang. Akram is sufficiently enigmatic and Anderson is plausibly muted, then impassioned. While the writing lacks the anarchy of Bain’s TV work, the sheer volume of slap-in-the face lines keeps the production impressively buoyant.

Rating: 3/5 stars

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