Rob Hayes’ new play about two brothers discovering the truth about their late father is a disturbing, yet brilliant example of new writing in London.
A Butcher of Distinction, a new play by Rob Hayes, tells of two brothers, Hartley (Ciarán Owens) and Hugo (Sam Swann), who have travelled down to London to clear the apartment of their late father. While they are there they are introduced to the rather salubrious world their father inhabited by Teddy (Michael Gould), leaving a considerable debt behind. The play takes a decidedly dark, and rather disturbing, turn towards the end that is definitely not for the squeamish, but leaves you wanting to know more about the world of the story.
The Cock Tavern theatre doesn't lend itself to big productions, with the cramped confines of the stage barely big enough to fit more than three or four people at a time. However, this suits A Butcher of Distinction perfectly. The stage littered with towers of cardboard boxes, betraying the apparent noble background of the recently deceased inhabitant, and opening up questions about the story behind the play almost immediately. The single hanging light, cardboard boxes and surroundings give an unsettling feel, which is amplified by the rather evocative sound design by Peter Eltringham.
The performances from all three were exemplary, with Owens and Swann giving standout performances as the two brothers. The interesting and strange relationship with each other, as well as the tense and uncomfortable feelings towards the city was incredibly believable, and towards the end of the play, both were utterly disturbing, yet intriguing. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of this was down to Hayes’ writing and Ned Bennett’s direction.
A Butcher of Distinction is a prime example of the new writing that should be coming out of London. With the shock announcement yesterday that the Cock Tavern Theatre will close indefinitely, cutting the run criminally short, I hope that they find a new home and get the audiences they so rightly deserve. With such good writing, performances and staging, this is one of the best examples of London fringe I have seen.
Reviewed by Luke Murphy 5 April 2011
Unfortunately this is the last show reviewed at the Cock Tavern ever by FringeReview in its current location. The venue has been forced to close due to licensing laws. This show has now been transferred to the Kings Head for the remainder of its run.