Brian and Roger: A Highly Offensive Play review – Despite rascally performances, the jokes are too broad

Harry Peacock and Dan Skinner’s stage adaptation at the Menier Chocolate Factory is neither offensive nor subversive enough to undercut its irreverent title

Ava Wong Davies
Tuesday 02 November 2021 14:21
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<p>‘Brian and Roger: A Highly Offensive Play’ is neither funny nor perceptive enough </p>

‘Brian and Roger: A Highly Offensive Play’ is neither funny nor perceptive enough

The subtitle of Brian and Roger: A Highly Offensive Play becomes a curious albatross around its neck. Based on the dark comedy podcast by Harry Peacock and Dan Skinner, this new stage adaptation is neither highly offensive nor subversive enough to undercut a deliberately irreverent title.

The buddy comedy conceit is simple: Brian and Roger are two middle-aged divorcees who, having met at group counselling, have entered into an unlikely duo. Brian (Simon Lipkin, relishing every rascally second) is a cad and a conman, intent on roping the hapless Roger (a charmingly gullible Dan Skinner) into a series of increasingly ludicrous get-rich-quick schemes, which range from a high-stakes poker game in a Wiltshire abattoir to a convoluted plot that involves a pan-Asian autobahn, accidental bestiality, and a pair of bolt cutters.

Peacock and Skinner’s adaptation is faithful to the podcast’s format to a fault, simply transplanting Brian and Roger’s voice notes to one another onstage, and while David Babani’s production is stuffed with bells and whistles like campy costume changes, it can never quite escape that fundamental sense of inertia. It is no coincidence that the liveliest moment comes when Brian and Roger actually, finally, speak to one another directly.

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