Review by Carmel Shortall
Peter is a play about belief and scepticism; acceptance and hope; jealousy and sibling rivalry. It is played out against the contemporary background of the moral certainties of free market economics and the Iraq war and yet, according to playwright, George Hull, it does not have a moral.
Schoolboy Daniel Lawson is losing his religion and exploring his sexuality at the same time as his mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. His older brother Peter (who is credited with working miracles and is now prominent in an apostolic Christian church in the US) comes home triggering Daniel’s hostility and his need to prove Peter a fraud.
Daniel’s friend Saul comes to dinner and, through his questioning, the family history and Daniel’s feelings about his brother emerge amid general dinner table arguments. Gradually other characters are introduced: Fukayna, whom the boys meet in an internet chat room and Mr Freeman, the Economics teacher with a weird line in illustrative examples. When Peter turns up, dressed like a biblical character, he successfully sets about using his charisma on them but while Peter offers certainty, all Daniel has got to offer is lemon squash.
In the background five ghost nurses huddle and creep like a dumb chorus: a visual metaphor for Sandra Lawson’s illness which progresses throughout the play forcing a confrontation between Daniel and Peter.
The strong cast bring the individual characters to life. Neill McReynolds is frustrated, angry and ultimately bereft as Daniel. Stan Colomb is suitably charismatic and enthusiastic as Peter while Josie Bloom and Michael Kenneth Steward as their parents convince as they bicker and grapple with Sandra’s illness. Sam Hafez as Saul is conflicted and guilty about his sexuality and Catherine Kitsis brings a playful confidence to the part of Fukayna.
Once again, as with No Comment (the other Anatrope play showing at the Shaw as part of the Camden Fringe), the direction is shared between two – in this instance, Amalia Kontesi and Mariana Viegas Bennett. The set design conjures a family home with minimal fuss and the eerie presence of the ghost nurses creates an atmosphere where anything might happen.
With two plays enjoying relatively long fringe runs at the Shaw Theatre, Anatrope clearly mean business. Catch Peter and No Comment (see previous review) at the Shaw Theatre, 100-110 Euston Road, until August 19th. No Comment is at 6.30pm and Peter is at 9.00pm.