Brothers

Performing to a deservedly sold out crowd, this piece aims to start a conversation with its audience about a topic that is too often neglected. Brothers explores issues of mental health and masculinity in a contemporary, engaging style. It’s wonderful to see a company tackling such an important issue so directly.

Tragic and powerful, whilst remaining undeniably entertaining; not simply theatre but a vehicle for social change.

Following five young guys moving into a student flatshare, the show explores their backstories and friendships in the face of true tragedy. It was refreshing to see the male characters on stage being open about their emotions and stressing the importance of trying to help each other. Their relationships develop, with some growing closer and others reaching their breaking point. Throughout the characters regularly defy stereotypes giving a really positive look on male friendships. For instance, one of the guys is portrayed as bi-sexual and, instead of this being a dramatic plot point on if he will be accepted, he is never treated as anything other than one of the lads.

The company has taken its responsibility in exploring the topic of the piece, being as important and sensitive as it is, very seriously. Working alongside mental health charities CALM and Mind has insured that the issues are addressed carefully and truthfully. This sensitivity is shown through the quality of the writing, the show is well paced and each of the characters are given real depth. Although the theme is heavy there is also plenty of opportunity for fun and comedy, providing welcome breathing space for the audience.

A high point of the show comes in the form of a brief section where the company engage in physical theatre/ dance elements. This moment is powerful and well executed. However, this action never returns which is a real shame, both due to the high quality that the performers are capable of with the movement section and because only having it once creates a stylistic disparity. Although it’s an excellent moment, the fact that this stylistic physicality never returns makes it seem, sadly, somewhat out of place.

The venue provided further issues for the company to contend with; a lot of action happened with the actors sitting down, so from further back you simply couldn’t see the performance. This wasn’t helped by the noise coming from the air conditioning, the young men did not always succeed in projecting their voices enough that they could be heard clearly over it. Despite this Brothers is a high quality piece discussing a rarely talked about issue. It’s a worthwhile watch which raises real questions, hopefully making their audiences leave thinking “what could I have done to help”. It’s tragic and powerful, whilst remaining undeniably entertaining; not simply theatre but a vehicle for social change.  

Reviews by Gillian Bain

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

The winners of the Derek Award's Best Overall Show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 return with another fast-paced and thought provoking production. With aspects of their five-star signature blend of music and physical-theatre, 203 tackle another poignant and topical subject – understanding and coping with mental health issues. Told through the lives of five university housemates, the show starts as a rip-roaring comedy before the students' insecurities, anxieties and depression become all too apparent, leading to a preventable tragedy.