This is the story of two men who were very, very good at failing. From this true story, Fledging Theatre have created a rather enjoyable show. Hunkered down in a bunker with a relatively bare set, this production—mainly three actors, an on-stage actor/musician, and some technical aid—explores the lives of two hapless men who set up a peaceful commune in a world that doesn’t really care. The challenge is to make us care about the two self-confessed uncharismatic founders, and Christopher Neels and Patrick Holt as Tobias and Alexander certainly make a good job of this. Endearingly bumbling, yet sincere, they are able to capture the audience immediately and establish their flaws at the same time, right from the offset. Not only uncertain of what they mean as a commune, they also keep contradicting and qualifying each other in a series of running jokes that demonstrate some of the fault lines in their project. We have songs and silly dances that build on this and allow much of the comedy—both scripted and physical—to shine.
This production does a lot with a little in this surprising tale of how hard it is to live the life you want.
However, this isn’t just a piece of fluff. Even as the hilarity builds to its peak with the help of the flamboyant yet chronically anxious Brother Pablo, the only new member of the commune since its founding, the blend of tragedy and comedy suddenly takes a turn. Some may find this jarring but as a whole it works, and we can’t say that we weren’t forewarned. In adversity, we can really see how much idealism, loneliness and an inability to fit in have contributed in getting Brother Tobias and Brother Alexander to this point, and still without a written manifesto or any PR. These are men who try to find beauty in the effigies of themselves that their neighbours are burning outside their door, and try to turn tales of homophobic abuse into examples of their integrity in unconventional ways. While these stories are often played for their comedy, there is sadness lurking underneath.
This production does a lot with a little in this surprising tale of how hard it is to live the life you want (and who you should involve in doing that). Much like the commune that it explores, this show won’t change the world: it’s more about enjoying the contrast of silliness and seriousness, and seeing the relationships play out as these men try to deal with their failures and (relative) successes.