Review: The Best Brothers (The Old 505 Theatre)

old505Venue: Old 505 Theatre @ 5 Eliza St (Newtown NSW), Apr 13 – 30, 2016
Playwright: Daniel MacIvor
Director: Gareth Boylan
Cast: Sean Lynch, Johann Walraven

Theatre review (of a preview performance)
Like many other brothers, Hamilton and Kyle Best are not an affectionate pair. There is something about the closeness of siblings that can often prevent them from expressing tenderness for each other; a kind of certainty and confidence resides in their bond that renders physical and verbal assurances of love unnecessary. Of course, there is also the issue of maleness, of always assuming a hard exterior in the daily practice of gender, that ensures minimal sentimentality between men. Canadian playwright Daniel MacIvor’s The Best Brothers is a quirky look at family dynamics and a witty depiction of contemporary masculinity. Its comedy is subtle and unconventional, but deeply charming.

Gareth Boylan’s quiet, almost stoic approach as director provides a stylish framework for our enjoyment of the Bests. There is a story to be followed, but the play’s real concern is its characters and relationships, and Boylan’s unique aesthetic is a delightful aperture through which we explore the brothers, their mother and her dog. It is a smartly designed production, with just enough lighting and sound embellishment adding interest, in order that our senses may engage meaningfully. Set design is sleek and effective, although greater care should probably go into the masking of wings to minimise distraction from backstage activity.

Playing Kyle is Sean Lynch, dynamic and affable, with a charismatic presence bringing authenticity to the show’s artfully minimalist aura. The performer has strong instincts that allow him to connect well with viewers, and is often very entertaining with minute flourishes revealing an inventive mind. Equally enthusiastic is Johann Walraven as Hamilton, memorable for demonstrating a strong conviction but is perhaps less suited to the material at hand. There is good chemistry to be found between the two, and although their show is a well-rehearsed one, more nuance could be developed for greater emotional response. At the centre of The Best Brothers is a process of mourning, but sorrow seems to be missing from the men’s antics and high jinks. They spend all their energy taking care of things on the surface, so that no time is left for grief, allowing us only glimpses of truth behind their shiny exteriors. The Bests never wallow. Eruptions are left to subside on their own, while they keep calm and carry on.