Brighton Fringe 2022
Jon Haynes and David Woods have been making taut, seriously funny and form-bending shows for thirty years.
Their new play is a very fine addition to their catalogue. In its first UK performance, So… had the audience laughing, squirming and wanting more. Created over Zoom and meeting for the first time in two years to perform at Brighton Fringe, Ridiculusmus once again creates a big world and dives deep into what it is to be human with economy, eloquence and their distinctive brand of madness.
Catch it while you can at The Wagner Hall 17-19th May and Brighthelm Community Centre 20th-21st May. All shows at 7pm. Tickets 10/8 via Brightonfringe.org
Few things indicate class division like breakfast choices. Ok, there’s footwear, access to water, education and healthcare. But choosing protein powder, green juice and açai berries at daybreak rather than Fruit Loops “there’s no fruit in them” does the job with wit and truth to character.
It’s one of many subtle, socially conscious riffs that weave through the richly playful text from theatre stalwarts Ridiculusmus.
Two middle-aged brothers from Yorkshire (cultural appropriation alert duly given at the start) are having a Zoom meet-up. They seem to share the same dry sense of humour, are alert to each others ticks. They talk about food and how easy it is to get distracted on the internet. The chat is quick and sparky between them but it’s not long before the difference in their situations begins to push the relationship and dialogue into darker spaces.
Nigel (David Woods) is living in the family home, having cared for their ill, demanding mother until her recent death from “a fecal infection of her doo-dahs.” His unnamed brother meanwhile splits his life between Brussels and LA, lives largely in hotels and has been away from the UK for 15 years.
Sorting out the house contents with colour coded sticky notes reveals as much about their mother’s life as a “cosy racist” as it does about the men themselves and a family kept apart through choice or lack of it, by personality, money and sickness.
Conceived initially as a metaphor about Brexit, the play was made over Zoom and builds through a series of conversations, universal in its themes but character driven. There’s a kind of shorthand between the exchanges that moves the narrative along like jump-cuts; however expansive or rambling the stories. We learn that Nigel is on the dating site “Coffee meets Bagel” (they didn’t make that up) his brother has a male partner and a child who’s name he’s forgotten. They prowl like circling lions, despite facing each other through the square of a screen – two shop bought stands with led-lights -mainly directly straight to the audience. The limitation on action and the stark staging holds our attention and makes the occasional breaks in the format unexpectedly powerful.
So…is perhaps closest to Ridiculusmus’s 2002 play “Say Nothing” which discussed Northern Irish politics in a similarly adversorial and direct way. But in a career that’s seen them tackle post traumatic stress disorder performed from inside a cardboard box, a two-hander of The Importance of Being Earnest, via Indian spiritually from the viewpoint of two mental patients (Yes Yes Yes) their work is always distinctive and unlike anything else on stage today. With some playful elaboration around the final exchange to conclude the piece more neatly and please please more of the weird saxophone/elephant soundscape, Ridiculusmus surely have another hit in the making and one that Brighton Fringe should be honoured to host.