Saturday, July 13

The Retreat – White Bear Theatre

From the writer & creator of “Peep Show” & “Fresh Meat” comes a disappointing, often predictable farce on spirituality, mental health and the pressure of modern living.

Monk-in-the-making Luke (Jed McLoughlin) escaped London’s City life and painful events to find inner peace at a spiritual retreat in the Scottish Highlands.

His coke and sex addict of a brother, Tony (Harry Harding), comes to bring him down from his Gaelic cloud and back into carnal reality.

Ensues an endless series of easy plot revelations, which sadly turns the play into a classic, yet unimaginative topping improv exercise of “Yes and…” There is little to no subtext here, nor emotional reality to hold on to. The somewhat intimate, confessional moments feel unearned. The childish blaming game gets old fast. The sibling dynamic remains tentative – despite some earnest efforts, McLoughlin and Harding barely listen to each other.

McLoughlin’s use of a seemingly meditative tone throughout the play is alienating. By refusing to engage with his brother or with much in fact, he detaches his character from reality entirely. His emotional journey is hard to believe and even to care for. Harding tries his best to carry the play with a lively performance. His leading into a relaxing, yet sexy group visualization toward the end is a classic Peep Show’s Jeremy moment. Yet it comes too little too late. For the most part of the play, Tony’s loser charms don’t operate and I sometimes felt stuck on a pub date with a self-victimizing teenager whose rebellious appeal wore off after the first round.

The staging did not serve this production either. With a 90-degree setting, Tony ends up with his back to half of the audience for a large part of the play. Given his role in instilling humanity and relatability into the show, it makes for a rather numbing experience for a big chunk of the crowd…

‘I agreed to go under brain surgery, and I would like a second opinion’ Luke says. I’d agree. Some people seemed to be laughing whole-heartedly last night. So maybe I’m just not the right audience for this?

Reviewer: Klervi Gavet

Reviewed: 9th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 2 out of 5.