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Red Bud

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Those buddy boy get-togethers round the old camp fire always end in tears; or, in the case of Red Bud by Californian playwright Brett Neveu – arriving in Sloane Square via Iowa and Steppenwolf in Chicago – drunken misery, off-limits revelations, punch-ups and a flashing knife.

Billed as a breakthrough play, and commissioned by the Royal Court, Red Bud maintains the very high level of inoffensive effing bad language going on downstairs in Nina Raine’s far superior Tribes.

But, honestly, what do you expect from a bunch of blue collar losers maintaining a ritual of beer, burgers and bloody bad behaviour in a dusty camp site on the eve of a Michigan motorcycle rally?

The scuffed up field in Tom Hadley’s design occupies the whole of the Upstairs floor, and we are ranged around on three sides in two rows. We share the space with a beaten up truck and a couple of low-grade tents.

Jason (Hywel Simons), unemployed, and Shane (Roger Evans), a demoted care worker, await Bill (Trevor White) and his 19 year-old shop-girl girlfriend, Jana (a confident debut by Isabel Ellison).

Jana, of course, is the “new girl” catalyst as the over-age “lads” slide into recriminatory rituals, shouting matches and competitive drinking. Things start to go badly wrong when factory worker Greg (Peter McDonald) and his heavily pregnant wife (Lisa Palfrey) hang in out of resentful duty rather than enthusiasm.

It’s a formula play of soured friendship, and incipient middle-age in a fading social context, but Jo McInnes’s strong and brutal production does it proud, even if, as is often the way with seventy-minute plays (Pinter’s Moonlight is another example), it seems to go on forever.


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