Brush

Wed 31st July – Mon 26th August 2013

reviews

Joshua Phillips

at 01:21 on 22nd Aug 2013

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‘Brush’ is the story of two young men in a room. Specifically, a dingy art studio. The two young men are Matty, played by Danny Mellor, and Swanny, played by Forest Watkins, tortured young artists swimming in cheap vodka and drugs. There is a third person in the room as well, in the form of Amy, Swanny’s most recent ex-girlfriend: he has not taken it well, and a fair bit of ‘Brush’ is spent listening to Matty and Swanny deliver monologues about her. She is the pivot around which much of the play turns, but she is a sort of absent centre, visible only through two short video clips that are projected onto the auditorium’s back wall, and through the play’s two central, though hardly unbiased, monologues.

Whilst neither Mellor nor Watkins play particularly sympathetic characters – Swanny is a self-pitying misogynist and Matty is self-loathing and jealous – the chemistry that the pair have is genuine. This chemistry is what drives the play forward. Their relationship is far from simple or harmonious, but it is heartfelt and entirely believable. This relationship is made possible by Melanie Ann Ball’s naturalistic script, one that presents Matty and Swanny in their inarticulate, sweary glory.Tensions rise in the artists’ dingy studio as hidden desires and secrets begin to reveal themselves; tempers begin to fray, and the duo’s anger is both written and acted superbly.

This naturalistic approach extends to the play’s pre-set: we walked in to Mellor and Watkins shooting the breeze with the audience, trying to sell the array of paintings, which are impressive in their own right, propped up against the walls of the theatre. I genuinely found it hard to tell where the banter between Mellor, Watkins and the audience ends and the play begins, and this just increases the presence of the mundane reality that the play creates, and the duo wholly inhabit. The videos of Amy that play against the back wall act as an antidote to this sense of reality, but rather than bursting some kind of bubble, serves rather to ironise and undercut it.

‘Brush’ is a wholly competent piece of theatre, and one that grows more and more powerful as the narrative drives itself to its conclusion.

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Christian Kriticos

at 01:27 on 22nd Aug 2013

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Before the play began, the two-man cast of ‘Brush’ (Danny Mellor and Forest Watkins) made friendly banter with the intimate audience of five. They then began to chat amongst themselves in a cheerful and natural manner. So natural in fact that it took me two minutes or so to realise that the performance had actually started, and this wasn’t just friendly chat, it was the actual play. When the audience isn’t even conscious that the actors onstage are acting, then you know you are onto something good.

The two characters are Matty and Swanny, best friends, flatmates, and struggling artists. The plot revolves around an interview which can make or break Matty as an artist, his lingering feelings for ex-girlfriend Amy, and Swanny’s guilt over an affair he had with her. The play is a multimedia experience, with the artists’ paintings (which are really very good) decorating the stage, and two video interludes. These are well executed, managing to look professional and like a home movie at the same time.

The play slows down somewhat during the two monologues, but it more than makes up for this during the scenes between Matty and Swanny. Danny Mellor and Forest Watkins work extremely well together, and they play the parts of best friends so convincingly one can only assume that they really are best friends offstage too. Credit is also due to playwright Melanie Anne Ball for writing dialogue that actually sounds like real people talking. Too often we see plays that sound over the top and unnatural – realism, done well is refreshing.

If the play has one problem then it is the ending. It’s understandable that within the confines of an hour the plot has to be wrapped up swiftly, but the ending seemed very sudden, and an additional few scenes could have drawn out more about the relationship between Matty and Swanny and provided a more satisfying conclusion.

I consider it a great injustice that I have seen productions at the Fringe which are ten times worse than ‘Brush’, but have had ten times more people in the audience. Seek it out if you can.

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