Yes, Happy New is the title. It’s an Aussie play, in fact you could say a very Aussie play: raw, big, bold, emotional, in-yer-face and really quite weird. Written by Brendan Cowell, actor, writer and director, who seems to be quite a name in Australia but is new to me, and acted to the hilt by a trio of British actors whose accents were – in the case of the two men at least – so authentic-sounding I couldn’t believe they weren’t the real thing.
Two brothers, Danny and Lyall, are cooped up in a flat somewhere (Sydney maybe, or as the blurb says, the ‘outback’) just as they were cooped up in a chicken hutch by their mother many years ago, for some reason. On being rescued from their hen pen they became briefly the focus of a media circus fronted by television presenter Pru, who set them up in their flat, became the lover of the older brother and their only contact with the outside world. Unable to go anywhere the brothers now spend their time trying out different face masks and moisturisers, planning new year’s resolutions and concocting ‘punch’ from, among other things, anti-freeze, Marmite (Marmite? in Australia?), a pair of Pru’s knickers and the younger brother’s leather jacket, and when the pressure is really on, reverting to chicken-like behaviour.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this play. I found the heightened, hyper-expressive language both striking and irritating, and the character of Pru didn’t make a huge amount of sense to me. (And her final coup de theatre was frankly daft.) That said it is bold, and brave, and worth seeing for cracking performances from William Troughton (son of David perhaps?) as Danny and in particular Joel Samuels as Lyle – a star in the making I’d say, and another graduate of LAMDA.
Above all it’s good to see an Aussie play in the West End. I’ve seen quite a few oddball plays at small venues in Sydney in recent years – mostly at the Stables and Belvoir Street – and wondered why it is none of them seem to pop up over here. More Aussie plays please!
Happy New is on at Studio 2 at the Trafalgar Studios, Whitehall. Tickets bookable at www.atgtickets.com.
Also, coming soon at the Theatre 503: