Broken Lad: Arcola Outside

Dave Perry as Josh and Patrick Brennan as Phil in Broken Lad at Arcola Outside

Dave Perry as Josh and Patrick Brennan as Phil in Broken Lad at Arcola Outside - Credit: Arcola Theatre

The Hackney venue presses forward with its programme of (semi) al fresco work with Robin Hooper's play about the decline and self-deception of a washed-up comic.

It's set in the dowdy, makeshift dressing room of a north London pub where stand-up Phil (Patrick Brennan) is preparing to meet his public – what’s left of it.

This make or break show could be his last chance to attract attention from a booking agent after a once successful career hit the skids. With him is genial and loyal Ned (Adrian McLoughlin) who inexplicably thinks Phil is a comedy genius, and spends his time giving a running commentary while tapping away on gay hook-up sites.

Phil’s son Josh (Dave Perry) arrives: well-groomed, ambitious, focussed - all the things his dad is not. He worships his father but we soon gather that all is not well in his relationship with chirpy girlfriend Ria, and the reason why is not edifying.

Phil’s ex-wife Liz also makes an appearance and we can tell she's a sophisticated business woman because she wears baggy cream trousers and drinks Campari. It’s unclear why she’s turned up at this dump of a pub to further witness the disintegration of the ex she dismissed years ago as a waster.

Patrick Brennan as Phil in Broken Lad

Patrick Brennan as Phil in Broken Lad - Credit: Arcola Theatre

The struggle here is that Phil is a scruffy, arrogant, alcoholic, self-pitying, cardiac-risk of a mess and there are few insights or hints at any charm. There's little sense of why his dwindling fan club stick with this third rate Chubby Brown, and while the talented cast do their best to inject some life into poorly drawn cut-out characters, the clunky dialogue doesn't help.

Three years ago, the Park Theatre staged End of the Pier – a thoughtful and well executed examination of a faded comedian with dark secrets. There's an abundance of mileage to be had from the theme, but Hooper's unperceptive drama runs out of road long before the end. 2/5 Stars.