Young American playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s play about two black brothers in Louisiana, which has been extensively performed across the US, makes a gripping piece of theatre in this terrific co-production from ATC and the Young Vic.
Ogun Size is a garage owner who has brought up his younger brother Oshoosi since their mother’s death. Despite his best efforts, Oshoosi has ended up in prison, from which he has recently been released on parole. While Ogun tries to keep his brother out of trouble, his efforts are threatened by the intermittent and sexually insinuating presence of Oshoosi’s prison friend Elegba.
As this simple story works itself out, the brothers learn something about their mutual dependence and the filial love which finds it hard to speak its name.
Drawing on Yoruba myth and ritual (the characters’ Yoruba names have been chosen to reflect their inter-relationships), McCraney stages his play on a sparse stage within a chalk circle which is freshly drawn at the start of each performance. A deliberate sense of theatrical artifice is further emphasised by having the actors speak the stage directions, with musician Manuel Pinheiro improvising an accompaniment on electronics and percussion.
Although it is a short play, it makes virtuosic demands on its three actors. Daniel Francis and Tunji Kasim rise brilliantly to the challenge and are completely inside the Louisiana idiom – as is Anthony Welsh as the laid-back but sinister Elegba. You would never suspect that this was his first professional role.