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'The Brothers Size' at London's Young Vic Theatre - review

"An exploration of fraternal love in all it’s masculine, testosterone-fuelled intensity."

2018-02-03

First performed at the Young Vic a decade ago, this much lauded play by Tarell Alvin McCraney is returning home. In that time McCraney has bagged himself an Oscar for his feature film Moonlight. And like the Oscar-winning film, The Brothers Size deals with similar themes – black culture, identity, friendship and love. It’s a visual, theatrical experience with the momentum and ferocity of an express train.

Oshoosi Size is out on parole after a spell in prison. Desperately trying to find his way after his incarceration he reunites with his brother Ogun Henri Size. Through Yoruba mythology, ritual and music the brothers struggle to connect. Things are made more difficult by the appearance of Elegba, Oshoosi’s prison mate whose eerie presence doesn’t bode well and who seems determined to rekindle their intimate relationship outside of prison.

The slang of black culture, the abrupt disjointed dialogue, the prose and the verse make it difficult to know exactly what you’re listening to. However, as the ear adjusts this production reels you in until you are utterly captivated. The most striking aspect is the actors voicing the stage directions. This is used to great effect - it’s funny, cheeky and gives you a tiny glimpse of the actor behind the character.

Jonathan Ajayi as Oshoosi is barely out of drama school and is devastatingly brilliant. He captures the youth, innocence, pain and rage of what it is to be a black male in an unjust world. His comedy timing is impeccable and his dancing a highlight. The scene where he dances and sings with his brother along to Otis Redding’s Try A Little Tenderness is worth the price of the ticket alone.

Sope Dirisu as the older brother Ogun is all muscle and stormy intensity. The pain and love he feels for his brother is scary, sensitive and beautiful all at once. Anthony Welsh as Elegba brings an ethereal dreamlike quality with a singing voice which will haunt you for days.

The masculinity, testosterone and energy is off the charts and the emotions are almost operatic in nature. It’s a visual spectacle full of pain, rage and beauty and an experience you won’t forget.

Rating: 4/5

The Brothers Size runs at the Young Vic Theatre until February 14th. Find out more here.

Words by Matthew Hyde