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Brighton Festival: Winners and Losers review at Dome Studio Theatre

This European premiere of Winners and Losers by Theatre Replacement and Neworld Theatre, Vancouver, focuses on male angst, friendship and middle-age. Two performers, Marcus Youssef and James Long, explore their lives, their relationships with parents, especially their fathers, and with each other, in a digressive, engaging but often self-involved production.

The piece is structured around a warm-up exercise called Winners and Losers in which Youssef and Long debate which category things such as Pamela Anderson, the Occupy Movement, or Canada, fall into. Moments of humour, anecdotes and autobiographical reminiscence are offset by unconscious prejudices or shafts of self-revelation.

But something doesn’t gel. The two men are exploring their friendship but this feels forced and artificial in a public setting. The piece seems largely scripted, so any real tension at Youssef calling Long a bad father is defused by our sense it has been rehearsed. When they play table tennis, it doesn’t add anything to our basic sense that these men are competing with one another. Only a couple of times, when Long leaves the stage to use the toilet, or when they wrestle briefly in silence, is the flow of words interrupted in a thought-provoking way.

That said, the piece keeps your attention for the full 85 minutes. Perhaps it’s the subject matter of rather mundane middle-aged male anxiety that appeals less than the performances. More audience interaction, more physical theatre, or more genuine self-exposure might give the piece a greater sense of urgency.

Production Information

Dome Studio Theatre, May 21-24

Authors/cast
Marcus Youssef, James Long
Director
Chris Abraham
Producer
Sharon Huizinga
Running time
1hr 25mins

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