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Out of Season | Hampstead Theatre

Out of Season, written by Neil D'Souza and directed by Alice Hamilton, is an immensely strong and provocative play that aptly addresses and showcases a number of difficult themes. Three university best friends and ex-bandmates, Chris (Peter Bramhill), Dev (Neil D'Souza) and Michael (James Hillier) reunite for Chris's 50th birthday. Joining them are the two friends Holly (Kerry Bennett) and Amy (Catrin Aaron). 

The play's first act elegantly introduces us to the characters and sets up the conflicts and relationships between the group, with a gloriously funny start with Chris and Dev reuniting in the "deluxe" hotel room that they'd previously shared 30 years ago. The two characters are vastly different and their banter and witty observations both delight and excites. D'Souza's writing neatly brings to the fore-ground the wish to relive the glory days, whilst also reminding the audience that there is still time to make more glorious memories. Counteracting this with snippets of past reflections and regrets bleeding into the conversation, the audience feels intimately connected with these characters.

 The second act has a massive tonal shift with the introduction of the third friend Michael. Whilst there are a few lighthearted moments sprinkled about, there is an underlying sense of feeling unsettled and doom. Dev and Michael are confrontational and this results in a rather triggering and intense racially charged violent encounter. It's a tough watch and completely wipes away the warmth that was predominantly featured in the first act. D'Souza ensures that the characters and audience stew in this and reflect on our personal experiences. 

The cast are brilliant and truly embody their characters. Neil D'Souza delivers a mature and grounded performance. Peter Bramhill is charming and dynamic and becomes the strongest character. Kerry Bennett manages to add subtle depth and layers to Holly. James Hillier delivers a painful yet passionate performance. Catrin Aaron is the show's standout performer, brilliantly juggling her shy and softer side with the hard edged and strong demand. 

Out of Season is set entirely in a hotel room in Ibiza. The set design (Janet Bird) is coherent and the audience is transported back in time. The balcony is angled in such a way that the audience can still see when the characters step out to the balcony. The closet becomes a powerful metaphor and anchor for the story, with the weathered painted setting sun, and is a brilliant small addition and rightfully deserves the closing moments. The sound design (Harry Blake) is simple, with the constant beat of a music and the far away noise of partying from the balcony in the background, which serves as a reminder of the world around them. The lighting design (Matt Haskins) is good, replicating the warm and bright lights and lamps. Dousing the balcony is a fiery purplish glow was particularly clever. 

The show includes a few musical moments, written by Gil Cang, Neil D'Souza and Matt Sutton, and these are both fun and catchy. Bramhill and Aaron, in particular, shine in these moments.

D'Souza has created a piece that transcends time, managing to echo and intensify the ripples cast thirty years ago in the present. Unabashedly tackling racism, both in an extreme situation and the casual everyday instances, D'Souza questions the complexities of relationships. An accurate representation of the tough dynamics of conflicts in male friendships and how these relationships play out, Out of Season is an important and an excellent play. Out of Season is currently playing at the Hampstead Theatre until the 23rd of March. For more information and tickets, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review


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