So Close To Home, Circus Parade, Brighton

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In So Close to Home, Robert's life has been tainted by his father's absence. Divorced and struggling to cope with alcoholism, his fear of abandonment prompts those around him to do just that. Now, just as he is about to open his own restaurant, his son Sean, a cocky youth, announces that he's going to live with his mother. As if that's not enough, Robert's father has turned up looking for reconciliation – and speaking with a ghastly faux-American accent.

After 25 years away, Martin has returned to "make amends", but why now? "Are you dying?" Robert asks matter-of-factly, a question later echoed by Sean, instantly suspicious of the granddad he's never met. Though we never get to the bottom of Martin's sudden disappearance, or indeed unexpected return, it's clear that the grass wasn't greener in America after all.

Written by Mark Wheatley, formerly a writer for Complicite, this site-specific three-hander takes place, fittingly, in a defunct pizza joint in one of the less salubrious corners of Brighton. So Close to Home is an emotionally authentic and confident exploration of the father-son relationship and the damage that can be passed down through the generations. It's also a convincing portrait of the restaurant trade, where petty rivalries can descend into war, and two out of three new businesses fail.

While Joe Jacobs and Sam Cox do good work with their characters, it's Garry Cooper who really shines as Robert – twitchy, testy, angry at the hand that he's been dealt but ever hopeful that his luck will change. Before buying this wreck of a restaurant, he and Sean were hawking dodgy Parmesan to high-street hotels. So this is a new start, only it's going wrong before it has even got off the ground.

Just as Robert and Martin seem to have reached some sort of truce, the play moves from the personal to the political, and it's here that it loses its way. In an implausible subplot, Sean hires illegal immigrants to be the kitchen's night porters and pot-washers, thinking he is helping them. He receives a beating for his trouble. The violence takes place off stage, leaving our trio to pontificate over the morals of what has taken place. Such clumsiness is a shame in an otherwise credible snapshot of familial disharmony.

Runs to 25 May (01273 709709)

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