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Our Brother David at Watford Palace Theatre****
Words fly about the stage at Watford Palace Theatre as Anthony Clark premieres his new work, Our Brother David. People talk at cross purposes – they discuss art, finance, beauty, truth, global warming, capitalism, love, death and a whole lot more, sometimes leaving the audience with heads spinning.
We are gathered to watch a family reunion of sorts. Brother and sister David and Sophie Tiller own a seaside guest house, visiting their elder sister Caroline a successful, yet stuck, children’s writer and also present is long-term employee Althea, whom they call ’Nanny’, and eco-warrior Anthony, an old friend and local councillor.
Into this domestic scene steps their former brother-in-law Lawrence, his stunning fiancée Amelia and her teenage son Jason, whom neither of them trust to leave home alone.
On the eve of the second anniversary of Lawrence’s wife Veronica’s death, it becomes clear that the siblings miss her greatly. David, a former celebrity photographer, is incensed by Lawrence’s behaviour, believing he has deliberately chosen this date to arrive just to antagonise the family. He is both disturbed and aroused by the presence of Amelia.
Anthony also admires Amelia and as he talks about his concerns about coastal erosion, she finds him equally attractive. Sophie has feelings for Anthony that she has never divulged.
This heady mix of sexual attraction and aggression is further inflamed when ex-banker Lawrence announces that he has come to cash in on his share of the family business. He and David have a fight over a camera that is compelling to watch but in truth they are wrestling with a much bigger battle.
“Most of us have a sense of right and wrong,” says David and he asks us all how come we’ve lost that humanity?
Richard O’Callaghan as David is mesmerising. He brings forth David’s odiousness but also his vision. David is the kind of character you'd hate to be left alone in a room with and yet his wisdom, however painful, hits home.
Camilla Power is much more than just 'the love interest' as Amelia and is finely matched as partner to Michael Lumsden as the strictly-for-business Lawrence. Justin Avoth's Anthony is finely tuned, half distracted, half driven and powerfully enigmatic. Newcomer Hugh John's take on teenage Jason has equal poise - he already knows that good acting is not necessarily governed by how much you have to say.
Penny Layden gives a powerful performance as the hard-working ’coper’ Sophie and along with Penny Beaumont, who plays Caroline, the three siblings sound and behave like a real family. David, the lynchpin of the trio, reacts when threatened but ultimately, it is their unity and their heart that wins through.
Our Brother David runs until April 28. Details: 01923 225671