Review: The Red (Original Theatre, online)

A father and son meet in a wine cellar. The son is a recovering alcoholic, and his dad (a ghost, who left the son a nice bottle of red wine in his will) doesn’t seem to understand the harm a glass of booze will do.

The Red – the newest digital production from Original Theatre – is an hour-long conversation between the two, but it rarely flags. Written by Marcus Brigstocke, inspired by his own recovery, it is directed with flair by Charlotte Peters (filmed over two days at The Vaults) and performed by real-life father and son Bruce and Sam Alexander.

As son Benedict continues to struggle with his addiction, “I’d have to decide to drink it”, almost sharing a dance with the bottle, a courtship of wine and lips, his father’s spirit shows his own limitations.

This is a love letter to two relationships Benedict has lost in life: with his father, and with alcohol. It is a conversation he “has every day”, but grief and, maybe, guilt, has placed his dead father into the discussion.

Production image from The Red

In its first outing at the Edinburgh Fringe, Brigstocke directed his own play, but opened out and rethought for a digital audience, this becomes a two-hander which makes quite an impact in a small space, allowing you different viewpoints. It is still a bottle and two men, but also much more.

Alexanders senior and junior have the real-life chemistry you’d expect, but Bruce has the more difficult role in a way as the manifestation of the alcoholic son’s mental gymnastics.

Sam Alexander gives Benedict a realistic pull towards the good things about drinking, while clearly recognising he might never experience them again. The tragedy of the addict who became one from the first sip is depicted with total clarity.

You can stream The Red on the Original Theatre platform from 16 March-16 June. Purchase your ticket here.

Image credit: Tom Grace