Marcus Brigstocke has made regular appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe since winning the BBC New Comedy Award in 1996, either doing stand-up or in solo dramas such as 2015’s Fully Committed.
This is, however, his first bash at directing and it’s a self-penned piece that channels Brigstocke’s own experience of alcohol addiction.
In The Red, Benedict has been sober for 25 years but struggles at his father’s wake. He has inherited a portion of his father’s extensive wine cellar, and is particularly drawn to a Châteauneuf-du-Pape purchased the year he was born.
As Benedict battles with this emotional challenge to his very real addiction, his late father appears to offer encouragement and advice, while questioning his own relationship with alcohol.
This ambling, bittersweet play was originally commissioned by BBC Radio 4 but translates fluidly to the stage, though Brigstocke’s production is languorous.
Benedict’s relationship with his father is far more amiable than his relationship with alcohol, but this tends to mute the conflict. However, their easy banter does stop the whole affair from dissolving into a clunky explanation of Alcoholics Anonymous’ Twelve-Step Facilitation.
It also helps that the actors, real-life father and son Bruce and Sam Alexander, have an easy rapport that perfectly mirrors the tone of the piece.