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Theatre review: Two Brothers

Theatre

Playwright Hannie Rayson's controversial tale of "power and evil" made its debut in 2005, yet its themes revolving around refugees and human rights are arguably even more relevant now.

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The two brothers, James “Eggs” Benedict and Tom Benedict, are political and philosophical opposites. Minister for Defence Eggs has his sights on the prime ministership; Tom, on the other hand, is CEO of a charitable foundation that supports vulnerable social groups.

The two appear accustomed to debating opposite ends of the spectrum – but then a boatload of refugees sinks, with just one survivor, Hazem Al Ayad.

Eggs immediately sees the political ramifications of his brother supporting Hazem’s claim for refugee status, and the brothers, their families and society are torn apart by the struggle that ensues.

The cast members are to be commended for their performances in this two-hours-plus production, which is directed by Robert Kimber and being presented for the first time in Adelaide by Red Phoenix Theatre, the resident company at Holden Street Theatres. The leads – real-life brothers Brant Eustice (“Eggs” Benedict) and Michael Eustice (Tom Benedict) – are outstanding.

Brant Eustice portrays a character who is simultaneously pompous and relatable, sympathetic and evil. Perhaps the most interesting part of the play for Eggs is when he questions the depths to which his senior political advisor, a woman named Jamie Savage, will go to secure political victory. The irony that he himself has done far worse appears lost on him, and Brant plays this part with equal ignominy.

Michael Eustice’s Tom Benedict is less of an egomaniac, and the role carries slightly less gravitas for reasons which will be apparent when viewing Two Brothers, but he provides the much-needed foil for Eggs.

Photo: Richard Parkhill

The supporting cast is also excellen. Lyn Wilson plays Eggs’ wife, Fiona Benedict, a downtrodden woman broken by the death of her teenage son Marty from a drug overdose some two years previously, and Joshua Coldwell is surviving son Lachlan, a Navy man who holds some powerful political secrets.

Tracey Walker, as Tom’s wife Angela Sidoropoulos, brings a believable fiery social conscience to the part, while Joshua Mensch plays their son Harry Benedict, who was with Marty the night he died.

Alicia Jaye, as the “evil” Jamie Savage, becomes more convincing as the production goes on, and Fahad Farooque has the pivotal role of refugee survivor Hazem Al Ayad. Although he spends less time on stage than most other cast members, Farooque excellently portrays Hazem’s grief at losing his wife and family, and the fear of an uncertain future in Australia.

On opening weekend, it took a good 20 minutes or so for this production to find its feet, both in terms of establishing a coherent storyline and for the cast to ease into it. But once on its way, Two Brothers kept up a cracking pace.

The story is engaging, with ever-increasing stakes and tension as it raises questions about just how far people will go to secure power. The social issues regarding refugees and human rights remain significant.

Holden Street Theatres is an arts venue that deserves some love outside of the busy Fringe time, and Two Brothers is a highly recommended night of local, live theatre.

Two Brothers is playing at Holden Street Theatres until May 27.

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