The Red (4 stars)

This article is from 2019

The Red

A slick two-hander about a father, a son and the demon drink

This is a play that Marcus Brigstocke wrote for Radio 4, and it shows; there's almost nothing to see here other than two men talking in a wine-cellar, and a bottle of red centre-stage. For his first Fringe show as director, Brigstocke does a neat job of taking a slender conceit – to drink or not to drink – and successfully draining the juice from that concept to the dregs. It's not surprising to find out that the play's deft action is based on personal experience.

Benedict (Sam Alexander) is one of several children. On the day of his father's funeral, he finds a note addressed to him. His father (Bruce Alexander) had put down a bottle of fine wine for his son at birth; the bottle remains unopened. Perhaps this is the right occasion, but there's a complication. Benedict is a recovering alcoholic, and has not touched alcohol for years. Dare he open the bottle, as his father wished, and enjoy the rare wine? Or is he risking everything, his wife, his home, his family, to make a futile gesture to his absent father?

The Red has an ambiguous conclusion, the equation lies deliberately unsolved, but the road travelled is fine. The Alexanders, father and son, are ideal, conveying a sense of warmth even in disagreement. And while it could be said that the minimal plot developments don't go far in terms of action, they do manage to create a significant amount of dramatic mileage from a small, personal moment.

These are first world problems; Benedict is well-heeled, the bottle is one of many, a cellar-full passed on by a father to his children, alongside a substantial estate. But he fears waking the sleeping tiger of addiction, and Brigstocke's neat two-hander addresses a universal problem that's more than just a posh bottle of plonk.

Pleasance Dome, until 26 Aug, 4pm, £12–£13 (£11–£12).

The Red

  • 4 stars

Corduroy Productions and Something for the Weekend Benedict's dad loved wine. He loved collecting it, drinking it and sharing it with friends and family was an act of love. Benedict was a teenage alcoholic. He's been sober now for 25 years. On the day of his father's funeral, Benedict receives an unsettling final bequest…