Thursday, 9 November 2017

REVIEW: The Retreat at the Park Theatre

The Park Theatre programmes its two venues to appeal to a wide audience demographic in the Finsbury Park borough . This year we have seen a diverse mix including Hot Coals' wordless comedy "Finders Keepers", Giles Brandreth's cut down "Hamlet" and the strange goings on of Orford Ness in " Fishskin Trousers". On this occasion "The Retreat" a first stage play by Sam Bain targets the fans of TV comedy shows Peep Show ,Fresh meat and Gimme Gimme Gimme with its sophomoric base comedy. It is directed by Kathy Burke who has a fine comedy touch.

The opening sounds of the toll of bells and bird calls with muted light streaming through the small window effectively places us in a remote location.From my vantage point perched high up in the circle, peering down like a Scottish eagle hovering over a rather large basically furnished Scottish crofters hut, we meet Luke, a successful city trader.He has decided to covert to Buddhism and has travelled north to prepare sending his older brother,Tony, a postcard "Starting Retreat, please pay bills and redirect post". Tony smells a rat and can't understand why he would give up a life where "you were probably getting hooker Nectar points".

Luke is played by Samuel Anderson, a former Dr Who time traveller, with sincerity and ultimately love for his fellow humans and is a likeable if confused man. We never quite believe why he is there. His older brother, Tony, is played by Adam Deacon as the immature weak indulgent London lad who works for deliveroo. He can't understand why anyone would abandon their London life but resents that Luke was the "golden boy". To him drugs are the answer," you should trying snorting pure MDMA, that really does make everything all right". They don't convince as brothers, just feel like odd flatmates.

The third character in the triangle is Tara (played by Yasmine Akram) who runs the Centre and accepts that "most muggles don't understand retreat" but acknowledges that she is indulging in Buddhist cosplay. She is an attractive Irish girl and desperate to promote Buddhism. This sets up plenty of cheap religious jokes which had the first night giggling frequently such as future lives "like being Doctor Who without the daleks" or "so if I died, you'd sit around for hours praying for my soul?....That's really annoying". Tara explains "My green Tara
empowerment means I'm able to transform sexual desire into wisdom" but Tony just wants to "sign me up for your advanced shagitation course".

This could have been an interesting comedy about life choices ,addiction, about family ties and religious fervour and fraud but it is instead a ninety minute comedy sketch allowing Tony to unpleasantly dismiss the retreat, "Sorry sweetheart. Family comes first. F**k you and f**k all buddhists". It had the audience lapping up the jokes but left me feeling the talent behind the show wasted an opportunity to say something about spirituality versus materialism in the modern world.

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★
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