“Reeeeeeeddddd Buuuuuuuddddd!” rings out through the Royal Court’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, like the mating call of the disaffected, dysfunctional middle-aged male in Brett Neveu’s new play.
The over-enthusiastic cry is the name of a motocross meeting that four American friends have ritualistically attended since their teenage years. Decades later it is, you sense, the one thing that brings them back together year on year; but they are no longer teenagers with dreams waiting to be realised, they are now adults aiming to escape from reality for just one weekend.
Much has changed since Jason, Bill, Shane and Greg first made the pilgrimage to Red Bud. Greg has swapped his motorbike for a pregnant wife, Jason has sold all his possessions just to make ends meet, Shane’s misdemeanours have left him in a dead end job and Bill has become the most grown up of the lot but still tries to grab onto youth in the form of his 19-year-old girlfriend Jana.
In truth the tradition of Red Bud is probably all that has kept the foursome’s friendship alive. Each year they return to forget the real world and relive past glories, yet it is hard to forget reality when there is so much shared history around the campfire. Behind Neveu’s blokey banter, bullying and jostling for position lies a collection of sad lives that never lived up to expectations.
Director Jo McInnes and the show’s ensemble cast bring a burning passion – both spoken and unsaid – to the lives of the characters, their stories teased out over beer, whiskey and inventively flavoured crisps. Designer Tom Hadley’s turfing of the theatre and Jon Clark’s lighting, which descends from early evening to night, create an entirely believable and atmospheric camping trip in the middle of Sloane Square.
In just 70 minutes of each others’ company, tempers fray and tensions bubble over. As the old adage almost goes, it is all fun and drinking games until someone gets over excited with a big stick.