The Brothers Size | The Young Vic | 30-01-2018
Words by George Clark
Originally performed in 2007; The Brothers Size is one of the brother/sister trilogy of plays created by Moonlight co-writer and Academy Award winner Tarell Alvin McCraney. It is no surprise that this play has been renewed, as the timeless text finds itself equally, if not more relevant today. Bijan Sheibani takes the on roll of Director as he did during the 2007 and 2008 performances of the piece.
Oshoosi, played by (Jonathan Ajayi), has been out of jail for a couple of months and is still on parole. He’s out of work and struggling to move on, especially under the vigilant eye of his elder brother Ogun (Sope Dirisu). Though trying to help, Ogun won’t let his brother forget his sins any time soon. Ultimately, the deep south of America proves a hard place for a young black ex-con to keep out of trouble. And together, a fraternal tug of war commences between the brothers, and Oshoosi’s former cell mate Elegba (Anthony Welsh). We’re never given a specific date of events, a pertinent choice I’d say.
The script on it’s own is one of the most effectively written I’ve seen, there is an interesting narrative happening here as we’re slowly fed information through dream sequences and re-telling of events that had previously transpired. But it’s here we see the dynamics of the relationships, pushing and pulling between love, loyalty, lust and responsibility. All three characters are driven by a strong relatable motive, brotherhood, whether it be biological or born out of necessity. The use and combination of sound, lighting and some meticulously choreographed physical theatre (co-ordinated by Aline David) created a new dimension to the narrative, beautifully guiding us through moments of high emotion and conflict. All of which was performed flawlessly by all three of the main cast.
What is important about this production is that it manages to draw emotion by using minimal but astute theatre techniques. For example, the set? It’s made up purely of a chalk circle with small amount of red powder paint which, during the play, becomes increasing smudges until the entire circle is filled. This isn’t particularly flashy, but it’s pure. After seeing the equally excellent, though a lot more lavish Amadeus at the National a little over a week ago, I was highly impressed at how the combination of so many elements came off so well. This week, I’m impressed with how the use of small subtle elements, can create something ten times more moving.
In a time in which the undercurrent of off-west-end theatre is starting to bubble over in London, the Young Vic are going to have an exciting, prosperous year, if January is anything to go on at least. It does feel like now is the time in which new, interesting perspectives are bought to our attention. This play is over a decade old, yet as the world is waking up to the racial and gender based divides, the hunger for this style of story and production has never been greater. I sincerely hope that this production reaches the masses as this could really be the start of something special for theatre in the capital.