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Review: The Brothers Size, at Young Vic

Play by writer behind Oscar-winning film Moonlight is 90 minutes of honest emotion with a gut-wrenching ending

02 February, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Cast of The Brothers Size. Photo: Tristram Kenton

OGUN Size is a motor mechanic with his own business; Oshoosi, his younger brother, is just out of jail, still on parole. There is a close bond between them and it’s clear Ogun tries to look after his brother and guide him.

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play revolves around that relationship, its simple plot escalating dramatically as it reaches its end. Now an Oscar winner for his film Moonlight, McCraney says his tale of African-Americans in Louisiana draws on Yoruba tales and cosmology. It blends realism and conscious theatricality.

Steep banks of seating surround the empty playing space where there is an opening ritual. Actors mark out a chalk circle, then throw red dust at each other. Stage directions are spoken: “Ogun enters covered with oil,” he says before stepping into the circle: there is no oil and no car for him to crawl under, yet they are there, the emotion is right, the feeling is real.

Sope Dirisu is a solid, reliable Ogun; Jonathan Ajayi a more shrill, fast-talking Oshoosi, still abed when his brother is off to work. Ogun thinks Oshoosi’s prison pal Elegba a bad influence. Anthony Welsh gives him surface charm, an easy-going companion wanting to be closer to his buddy, but his risk-taking their undoing.

Bijan Sheibani first gained real attention directing this play in this theatre 10 years ago, and gets powerful playing from the three performers, their amazing physicality aided by Aline David’s movement direction, and Manuel Pinheiro’s live sound support adding impact. Played without interval this is 90 minutes of honest emotion with a gut-wrenching ending. Get a ticket before they have all gone.

UNTIL FEBRUARY 14
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