Live Review: Brian & Roger – A Highly Offensive Play

brian and roger11th December 2021, Menier Chocolate Factory, London.

Based on a podcast from Harry Peacock and Dan Skinner which sees two recently divorced men bond over their misery, you won’t need to have heard a single second of it to enjoy this superb two hander. Currently playing at London’s Menier Chocolate Factory it is deliberately written so that it’s accessible to all, but I’d be amazed if it didn’t make you want to immediately devour said podcast as soon as you can afterwards.

Apart from being recently divorced the two men have little in common, Roger (Dan Skinner) is a kind-hearted, anxious man who is far too desperate to please others, while Brian (Simon Lipkin, replacing Peacock due to the co-creator’s poor health) is an obnoxious, selfish bastard who always has a plan to make easy money, and with this being a darkly farcical work it always goes terribly, terribly wrong for both, though Roger suffers the most.

The other thing which makes it quite unique is the way that this is essentially a selection of short monologues, as we witness them leaving answer phone messages to each other, while there’s a selection of video projections which not only effectively represent the changing locations but also occasionally add to the humour and plotting as well. The absurdity of Brian’s manipulations builds quite quickly, with him initially involving Roger in a fake séance and then asking him to be his bodyguard for a deeply dodgy poker game, but once you’re at ease with this stretching reality more than a little it becomes funnier and funnier as it goes on.

Skinner is great as the ever pitiful Roger, one minute full of angst and misery, the next desperately trying to find positives in his consistently miserable existence, but Lipkin is even better and it’s an astonishing slice of acting, one of the best performances I’ve ever witnessed. He makes the horrendously self-centred Brian completely believable, but also manages to make this utter shit occasionally vaguely sympathetic, especially towards the end, which is impressive indeed given some of the things he does.

Perhaps the second half is slightly too long and the final segment pushes plausibility to its absolute limits, but the final pay off is so strong, and the ending so perfect, that I’m not going to complain too much. This comes to an end on the 18th of December but hopefully it will be restaged in the new year, it’s something that had me laughing hard throughout the majority of its running time and definitely deserves to run for many a month more.

★★★★

Alex Finch.

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Related Links:
More info and tickets can be found here.
While you can listen to the podcast here.

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