This little-known 1917 play by Peter Pan writer J. M. Barrie is magical and mind-blowing. A group of people, seemingly with nothing in common, find themselves invited to a house on Midsummer Night by a mysterious old man known as “Lob” – in fact, a Shakespearean trickster figure. They are persuaded to venture into the woods, where they each encounter a form of enchantment that provides them with a second chance in life. The implications of this “What if?” parallel reality vary for each person and the consequences are amusing, emotional and profound.
There’s a lengthy and deeply moving scene in which the painter Will Dearth speaks with his daughter Margaret (masterfully played by Miles Richardson and Venice van Someren respectively). Because of the magical spell that’s upon them, Will is no longer a desperate, defeated alcoholic and is instead full of kindness and creativity, life and love. Margaret is the delightful daughter he always wanted. It’s heartbreaking when you realise that all this must fade as he returns to the house and his enchantment wears off. And when he awakens, as if from a dream, what will be the fate of the idealised child he so adores but who never really existed?
Directed by Jonathan O’Boyle, Dear Brutus makes great use of the small space in the Playhouse’s Little Theatre with a simple but effective set. The music and sound mix are especially well-judged, with ambient tones that perfectly convey other-wordly states. I was transported to the enchanted wood and left with plenty to think about.
Compellingly brought to life by the Troupe production company, Dear Brutus remains a potent piece of work 100 years on. I feel lucky to have seen it.