Debuting as a writer and director, TV’s Marcus Brigstocke – known for his comedy and occasional film roles – brings us The Red, a play informed by his own experience battling alcoholism for close to thirty-years. The two-hander stars real-life father and son duo Bruce and Sam Alexander who in this fictional piece play father, John, and son, Benedict. We meet the pair on the day of John’s wake, in John’s wine cellar. He encourages his son to drink a bottle of wine (via a letter composed before his death) that he purchased for him on his second birthday, a beautiful bottle of wine he says, the exact same age as Benedict and valuable for its quality.
The piece never drags even for a moment, so spellbinding is Brigstocke’s writing
An hour in the company of John, Benedict and The Red speeds by. Despite featuring just the one conversation about drinking – or not drinking – a bottle of wine the piece never drags even for a moment, so spellbinding is Brigstocke’s writing. Perhaps it is true that nothing beats a story told from the heart. I do wonder if the supreme ease, naturalism and warmth that the actors brought to the stage is due to their relationship. It is without a doubt my favourite acting of the Fringe 2019 so far. Both actors share a soft lyricality to their performance, their gentle tones causing you to lean forward in your seat to drink in every aspect of their performance.
The tension throughout is perfect, emotionally charged without being sensationalist; gripping, but in a melancholy way. The play focuses mostly on theme of alcoholism with a strict reading of the text, however the undercurrent of loss and grief – mostly demonstrated in the acting – is a real masterpiece of subtlety and so much more poignant for it. The tender conclusion equals the emotion built up in the body of the play.
This work feels like something I should have been seeing at The National, or some other prestigious theatre, but the intimacy of the Fringe is all the more appealing. The set is magnificent, the close quarters adding to the quiet drama of the hour-long scene, and it's so invocative you can almost smell the sweetness of the wine and the creeping damp in the air.
The Red is not one to miss at the Fringe, sure to enjoy a packed run, book yourself a seat now.