The Brothers Size @ Young Vic, London

cast list
Daniel Francis
Anthony Welsh
Tunji Kasim

directed by
Bijan Sheibani
The Brothers Size, the Olivier nominated sell out hit by the American wunderkind playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney, is back at the Young Vic for a well-deserved second run while his In The Red and Brown Water plays in the main house.

Poetic, surreal and heart breaking, this is a play that will leave its mark on you. The Brothers Size is the story of two Louisiana brothers. Based on Yoruba folklore, it begins just after the younger of the two Size brothers, Oshoosi is released from prison.

He reluctantly goes to work in his elder brother Ogun’s car shop. Tunji Kasim’s Oshoosi has a puckish energy and boyish naivet, which rub up against his brother’s gruff, pragmatic approach to both life and the hand he has been dealt in it.

However, while inside, Oshoosi fell in with the creepy Elegba (excellently played by Anthony Welsh). Elegba who returns to haunt him, and their relationship sets up a tug of love between Ogun and this warped, controlling interloper. You quickly realise that the car Elegba presents to Oshoosi is a harbinger of deep trouble. Confronted by this dog in the manger, Ogun does all he can to save his brother from the man, who just as his prophetic dreams predicted, will be his down fall.

Cast to perfection, director Bijan Sheibani’s production provides an uplifting yet devastating look at brotherly love. All the action takes place with in a white chalk circle, sprinkled with rust coloured chalk, which is representative of imprisonment and the struggle for liberty.

Unable to escape his experiences in jail, Oshoosi’s horrors make themselves manifest in surreal nightmares and Ogun is equally imprisoned by the duty of care he feels for his younger brother and his desire to establish himself as a figure of authority and role model.

It is when the worst has happened and Oshoosi is on the run from the police, that Ogun’s mask cracks and his affection for his brother is allowed to rush forth. They laugh together, they reminisce and it is via the reliving of their childhood that the audience is presented with a joyous example of sibling love and companionship when the pair produce a wonderfully animated, choreographed rendition of Otis Redding’s Try a Little Tenderness.

As Oshoosi’s beautiful mellifluous voice flows out, in such contrast with his wrap sheet, you see the innocent, playful young man rather than a calculating miscreant and it is the redemptive quality of this scene, that makes their subsequent parting so heartbreaking, as their liberated, unselfconscious, singing and dancing is like a shaft of sunlight breaking in through the trauma and turmoil, a brief glimpse of life as it might have been.

Throughout the production the actors speak their stage directions, an effect that can heighten or disperse emotion, but it is another facet of this play which makes it unique, and feeds into the mythic quality of this production, representative of the fact that these protagonists are helpless, that this story is already set, and that destiny is driving them towards, the same shocking resolution time after time, because this story only has one ending.

The Brothers Size is an evocative and haunting thing, splendidly suited to the tight, dark space of the Young Vic’s Maria Studio.

The Brother Size is at the Young Vic unti 8 November 2008 and will then be touring.

Tarell Alvin McCraney’s In The Red and Brown Water is in the Young Vic’s main house until 8 November 2008.

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