Can a friend feel more like kin than your own brother? Or is blood thicker than water? Those are the questions asked by American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play The Brothers Size, in which the bond between two brothers is tested. Caroline Bishop attended the first night at the Young Vic.
Set in Louisiana in the ‘distant present’, The Brothers Size tells of three characters – brothers Ogun and Oshoosi Size, and Oshoosi’s best friend and former cellmate Elegba. Ogun is the older, responsible brother, who owns an auto repair garage; younger brother Oshoosi is fresh out of jail and enjoying the freedom and lack of responsibility that comes with it. With a certain naivety, he allows the slightly sinister presence of his friend Elegba to lead him away from his brother’s protection and back down a path he never intended to follow.
Nyasha Hatendi and Obi Abili skilfully portray both the tensions and loyalties within the bond between Ogun and Oshoosi, which derive from years of family history. Following the death of their mother, Ogun has been parent to his younger brother, trying to keep him on the straight and narrow, only for the wilful and carefree Oshoosi to land in trouble anyway – as happens once more when his misplaced loyalties for Elegba (Nathaniel Martello-White) end in disaster. But a touching scene when the brothers laugh about shared memories and let their worries dissipate shows that the bond between the two will always remain strong, unlike the watery ties of friendship which let Oshoosi down.
In this very physical drama, the three actors ably conjure the Louisiana setting on a bare stage and with no props, while McCraney’s stage directions, spoken as asides by the characters, add both humour and drama to the events, which build to a dramatic conclusion during the unbroken 90-minute run.
The Brothers Size plays at the Young Vic until 8 December.