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Brilliant Adventures (Manchester)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Alistair McDowall's play Brilliant Adventures won a Bruntwood Prize for playwriting in 2011 and now receives it's world première in this co-production between the Royal Exchange and the Live Theatre, Newcastle.

Luke is a nineteen year old scientific genius but treated as stupid by many people because of a speech impediment. His older brother Rob has always been the one to look out for him and now even as adults and Luke finally in his own flat, Rob is still looking out for him. Unfortunately Rob isn't really that good at the job and is more concerned with making money through drug dealing and dragging his druggie father around so he can keep an eye on him.

The arrival of Londoner Ben into the squalid mix of a Middlesborough slum, means that Rob has someone to supply money for the drugs and he sees himself, Luke and their father moving up in the world. However once Ben finds out about the existence of a working time machine, designed and built by Luke, things take a more sinister turn. Ben is determined to have the time machine and Luke is just as determined that he won't.

Robert Lonsdale as Luke is excellent in his portrayal of a reserved but moralistic genius, while Joseph Arkley's Rob is the complete antithesis of his brother but no less powerful performance. Ian Bonar is a suitably gormless Greg while Laurence Mitchell's Ben always has that underlying menace even when amiable. The cast is completed by Michael Hodgson as The Man and Lee Armstrong as Lee 2.

Director Caroline Steinbeis has worked hard to create a believable and tightly controlled performance on Max Jones' fittingly depressing set. The science connection though is too loose and barely there. This element does feel a bit tacked on. There are other pleasures though - and the performances do keep you watching.

Whilst Brilliant Adventures is undoubtedly a well written play, it's sheer subject and language make in an uneasy evening. Grim but good.

- Helen Jones


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