You don’t often hear 40 people asking an actor in unison: “Are you married?”
No they aren’t brainwashed, or hypnotised. Scottish playwright David Greig has his own simple way of getting his audience participating: they are encouraged to give a secret character a voice by reading the words from a PowerPoint from time to time. At first, shy and reluctant, the audience’s voice isn’t quite audible, but as soon as they get familiar with the rules, the audience start to enjoy their ‘task’ more.
Brewers Fayre tells a story about a middle-aged woman Elaine, who is troubled by her unstable marriage, her teenage daughter who is suffering from perennial anxieties, and her love affair on an extramarital dating website.
Played by Scottish director and actress Sandie Armstrong, Elaine begins to seek comfort from cyberspace when her agoraphobic husband Ian (played by Dodger Phillips) fails to satisfy her. After sending flirty text messages back and forth with a handsome young man called Anthony (Miles Mlambo), they decide to meet up. However, when Elaine arrives at the restaurant feeling guilty and ashamed, she discovers that Anthony has been kissing a girl he just met, who turns out to be Elaine’s 16-year-old daughter Christine (Tegen Hitchens).
“Please remember to enjoy your affair responsibly.” This is supposed to be the core of this show, yet it does not turn out to be too related to what the show itself presents. The process of committing the affair seems much more appealing while in comparison, the punishment doesn’t equal her infraction.
There is also an element of humour injected into the show. Rachel Heaton, who plays the teenager’s sex counsellor, takes up the fun role and balances the show with her witty comments, which successfully make the show less heavy.
The show ends rather weakly and hastily after an unimpressive climax. The audience are taught to read out the supposedly important lines: “We are alive, and the world seems new. These are hay days.” Issues broached from the beginning still haven’t been solved. Yet by stepping onto a worse path Elaine seems to realise that she is at the lowest point of her life, and it will not keep on worsening as long as her family are alive.
All in all, the actors from Theatre Stramash are predominantly good-looking (maybe one of the selling points of the play?), but the play itself wasn’t particularly well-written, and the concept is a touch too simplistic. Brewers Fayre is a plain show from the beginning to the end.
Brewers Fayre played at the Brighton Fringe.