Sam Bain’s The Retreat, has received its world premiere at The Park Theatre. This may be a debut play, but the writer is no stranger to success, having written highly regarded TV comedies, such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat. His first work for the stage doesn’t disappoint, and it’s easy to recognise some of that real-life, everyday humour, which has become a trademark.
Successful city slicker Luke, is part way through a three-month Buddhist retreat somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. His brother, Tony, has had to take a train to Glasgow, and a bus to Inverness, before hitch hiking to the undisclosed location. The excuse for the visit doesn’t hold up, and we soon realise Tony is staging an intervention, in his own particular style.
When Tony finds out Luke has arranged to sell the flat they share in London to fund the expansion of the commune, he’s not surprised, he’s spent quite a bit of time googling the owner, Daisy. When she pops round to Luke’s hut, we discover she’s adopted the name Tara, and a costume to accompany it.
As the play progresses, we delve deeper in to the brothers characters, and in particular the events in their past which have led them on different paths. We see their weaknesses, and how those chinks in their armour don’t make them so different after all.
Adam Deacon is simply wonderful as Tony, he delivers the role totally straight, and with conviction. The result is hilarious, almost every line he spoke has the audience in fits of laughter. But, when it’s required he brings a quiet hush to the house, as the audience are captivated by his hidden despair.
As Luke, Samuel Anderson gives a powerful performance, the only member of the cast to be on stage throughout, he grapples with the conflict the character feels and expresses it with a natural fervor. The role of Tara takes a back seat to the fraternal drama, but Yasmine Akram also manages to elicit the internal struggle of the character.
The Retreat has been beautifully directed by Kathy Burke, just like a cleansed mind there’s no unnecessary clutter, the actors move with purpose, and nothing is there that doesn’t add to the overall feel of the production. It’s clear Burke has fully immersed herself in Bain’s world to fully realise it on stage.
Paul Wills’ set design creates just the right atmosphere, the one stone wall and single bed, surrounded by minimal living essentials, allows us to believe fully in that little hut in the Highlands. All while John Leonard’s sound design gives us rain, birds and wild animals with gorgeous subtlety.
The Retreat is outrageously funny with a hidden soul, there’s a lot that’s left unsaid, but enough to capture your imagination and set you on a path of contemplation. While there’s deeper meaning entrenched in the family bonds, this play is a cleverly composed comedy that could easily work as TV sitcom, but shines when brought to life in the theatre.