Brighton Fringe 2023
Very-well written, darkly comedic, more touchingly true, writer Paul M Bradley and Georgie Banks take this just as far as it’ll go. Highly recommended.
Writer and director: Paul M Bradley, Set: the Company, Lighting: Gabriel Magill (of Sweet Venues), Company: Three Coin Theatre
Till June 4th
When a friend ghosts you for a year, for no particular reason, and you have a mix of smart with low self-esteem, what do you do? Keep calling, judiciously, and they’ll eventually answer.
Paul M Bradley’s The Last Night Out starring himself and Paul M Bradley and Georgie Banks his cute, uber-attractive but wild friend is a touching study of the limits of friendship, a two-hander of emotional intelligence tennis where each gently – or exuberantly – challenges the other and occasionally a ball goes through a window. Truth or dare? Mainly it’s truth.
Sophie (Georgie Banks) has mainly ghosted Dave (Paul M Bradley) because, she slowly reveals, she’s ashamed. She tells Dave he reminds her (oops) of her former, non-judgemental boyfriend Rob, whom she cheated on with married, dangerous controlling Barry. Wit whom she ended competing on hovering up coke as well as downing alcohol. Which is why Sophie after an oblivious year she didn’t want to share with pure-hearted, non-judgemental Dave (though everyone else) has relocated to Southsea from London, where Dave still lives with his over-protective parents – his mother perpetually rings. That incident outside with two other children, an SUV. When they were all six, has had Dave cocooned in cotton-wool. Despite his capacity to discourse on Einstein and time, a party-piece Sophie wants hm to repeat for her friend Ruby.
If Sophie foreswears snorting, Dave’s nominally giving up alcohol. What happens when some old habits return? Truth or dare? This isn a touching work, alert and intelligent to the way friendship could be something more, or less than love, a hybrid whose quality might not always be possible to sustain. Or even a liminal time-limited spur to growth. Or just love.
There’s a truth to the development of these characters that’s rare to encounter on the Fringe. A depth to Sophie’s wild social flailing her self-destructive tendencies stopped by an equally strong will to get through; a self-loathing she’s not earned, a knowledge of her attractiveness she can’t help. Sophie’s complex, as Dave says, above all alive and contradictory Banks her plays her to perfection.
Bradley’s hangdog Dave is perhaps a typical persona many writers adopt if they’re playing the part. Dave though is one who can grow, assert himself quietly, sometimes in the wrong places. Above all Bradley makes his intelligence, his avoidance of pathos believable. Dave’s persona walks between normal male confidence and the comedic mother’s boy with little agency. Bradley ensures he’s a character both aware of his lack of development and a will to change. Bradley refuses Dave bathos, and this is right.
The denouement, the decisions each make, you’ll need to see. A simple use of chairs and a table, with a counter of sorts and shots is all the set needs, and a few disappearances behind the curtain. Very-well written, darkly comedic, more touchingly true, Bradley and Banks take this just as far as it’ll go. Highly recommended.