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Brian & Roger: A Highly Hilarious Play

‘Brian and Roger met at a support group for recently divorced men. Roger was attending because he was genuinely grieving the loss of his marriage. Brian was instructed to attend by his solicitor if he wanted to dodge paying alimony. Roger is in need of guidance and support, which Brian willingly supplies’, says the press release, and so the scene was set for one of the funniest plays I’ve seen this year, writes Michael Holland.

The two men have fallen into despair. Brian lives in student digs while Roger sleeps on the settee in the house of an 82-year-old woman. A highlight of their shared misery is watching a DVD on a borrowed laptop while standing up in a tiny kitchen. 

Roger wants to be back with his wife and son. Brian wants to relive his youth all over again, which means getting involved with drugs and all the scummy schemes that accompany that world. But Brian takes a hands-off approach to that seedy side of his life by convincing Roger that his finances would improve if he was the seance stooge for a scam artist out to fleece the grieving and vulnerable of this world.

Then there is the poker game with Albanian and Russian heavies, played in the fridge of an abattoir. Once again, you know this is not going to end well for Roger.

Over time, Roger becomes bait for attack dogs, a burglar, a drug courier, and the man who has to go deep into the Chinese mountains on a stolen donkey to persuade a village to move two miles to the East, plus battle with a snake and a tropical disease.

The madder Brian & Roger gets the funnier it becomes. The unbelievable exploits are reminiscent of the drug-fuelled travels the writers of Loaded magazine enjoyed in the 1990s.

Brian & Roger started life as a podcast written and performed by Dan Skinner (Roger) and Harry Peacock, who could not play Brian for medical reasons, so it already had an audio life before this production turned it in to a visual extravaganza with the aid of some brilliant video design by Timothy Bird that magically brings the words to life as well as transport us all around the world.

The performances are impeccable, with high praise going to Simon Lipkin who stood in at short notice to get strapped down and ‘probed’ in a sex dungeon for his art.

At first, I felt sorry for the put-upon Roger, always short of money and always at the mercy of Brian’s ‘business opportunities’, but I came to feel that if he can’t learn from his mistakes then he must suffer the consequences. Plus, Brian was living the best life.

Brian and Roger is played out via the voicemail they leave on each other’s phones and subtitled, ‘A Highly Offensive Play’, but no one can get offended. In fact, it is a highly hilarious play and should be seen.

Menier Chocolate Factory, The Mixing Room, 53 Southwark Street, London, SE1 1RU until November 18th. Times: Tues – Sat 7.30pm; weekend matinees 3 pm. Admission: £32.50. 

Booking: 020 7378 1713 (£2.50 transaction fee per booking)

Website:  www.menierchocolatefactory.com (£1.50 transaction fee per booking)

Photos: Nobby Clark

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