Out of Season

★ ★ ★

A nondescript hotel room on the third floor of an Ibiza hotel is the setting for this jaunt into 90s nostalgia, boyish humour and toxic masculinity.

Two andropausal men return to a place they have been before in their youth when they were in a rock band together.  Dev, a college lecturer is played with pained sensitivity by Neil D’Souza.  His assertive but insecure old friend is Chris played by Peter Bramhill, a teacher, who still plays gigs at his local pub.

We learn about them through their jokey banter about what they used to do when they stayed in the same room during the raving 90s.  The tone is set by Dev’s downbeat tone, ‘The revolution came.  We lost.’  In the old days they cut a record which was played once on the John Peel programme, they were all set for the big time, they thought, when Dev left the band.

They are revisiting the hotel for Chris’s 50th birthday but are at a loss what to do – the drinking and talk of girls seem forced, Dev would rather go to bed with a book and his iPad.  Chris ventures out to live it up.

The entrance of Holly, a big northern slapper up for anything, changes the dynamic.  Kerry Bennett as Holly fills the stage with her cackles and lewd comments.  Her quieter friend Amy played by Catrin Aaron completes the quartet.

So far, so sitcom: different characters sparking off each other.  This is funny, but the drama sags in the first hour with a lack of tension.  If there is a dramatic question it is who is going to get a shag – the stakes are not high.  It is not clear whether we are to feel sorry for the characters or laugh at them.

This all changes considerably for the better in the second half with the arrival of Michael, the leader of the band and an arrogant poseur.  He supposedly has music business contacts, certainly has a stash of cocaine, and feels it is his right to score with Holly who had previously favoured Dev’s attentions.  He derides his friends for writing ‘poncy books that no one reads, playing empty gigs in shitty pubs.’  Dev can win against Michael by weaponizing the anger of the young against them – white, middle-aged and entitled – but scoring off Michael leaves him vulnerable to an escalated attack.  Mock anger and badinage turns to real anger and real insults turn into real violence.

The characters find that trying to recover the enthusiasm of lost youth also means revisiting bullying and the failures that have dogged them through life.  Neil D’Souza, who wrote the script as well as playing Dev, elegantly depicts the tension between wanting to be part of the gang and not wanting to face the abuse that that entails

The excellent, tight direction by Alice Hamilton makes this a fun, then a painful experience, well set on scene by the plastic balcony chairs and glam-rock wigs of a cheap holiday in the Balearics.


Hampstead Theatre

Playwright: Neil D’Souza

Director: Alice Hamilton

Cast: Catrin Aaron, Kerry Bennett, Peter Bramhill, Neil D’Souza, James Hillier