REVIEW: Petrification, The Customs House, South Shields

Neil Grainger in Petrification. Picture by Chris Bishop.
Neil Grainger in Petrification. Picture by Chris Bishop.

This dramatic play about the reunion of two brothers is intense and intriguing.

Simon (Neil Grainger) has come back to Gateshead from London for his father’s funeral, and when meeting his brother Sean (James Baxter) down the pub for a pint, he’s introduced to his brother’s boyfriend Aidan (Jamie Quinn), a man he knows nothing about.

While Simon is full of tales of his new cosmopolitan life and his job as a university paleontologist, he’s also filled with jealousy as Aidan chats about his late father.

He’s never even heard of Aidan, so how can he know so much about his dad?

The drama, by Zoe Cooper, is tense and thought-provoking, but it’s also very funny too.

As the audience enters the room, Grainger – who starred as pub singer Gervaise in sitcom Hebburn – is sat waiting for his brother arrive.

Neil Grainger in Petrification. Picture by Chris Bishop.

Neil Grainger in Petrification. Picture by Chris Bishop.

We take seats at the tables around him, becoming the other pub customers, and the in the round set-up gives the show a very intimate feel – we’re a part of it too.

The awkward conversation between Simon and Aidan, while Sean is at the bar, is fantastic.

The dialogue between them is extremely realistic, talking over each other after an awkward silence, and insisting the other goes first.

Their clumsy exchange of small talk makes for great entertainment.

Neil Grainger in Petrification. Picture by Chris Bishop.

Neil Grainger in Petrification. Picture by Chris Bishop.

When Sean returns, the brothers begin sharing memories of their dad and their family holidays at the beach in Whitby, and Simon’s resentment of Aidan’s fondness for his dad grows stronger.

Things get really interesting when the characters swap seats and we hear part of the exchange again from someone else’s point of view, never knowing whose account was the accurate one.

The play flashes back and forward in time as the brothers think about their holidays, becoming both their younger selves and their parents to play out what happened from different points of view.

Every now and again, it was a little tricky to follow exactly who everyone was meant to be, but the crux of the story was clear the entire time – how accurate are our memories? And do we remember only what we want to?

Petrification is a thought-provoking piece that shines a harsh light on different attitudes towards homosexuality.

How their dad felt about Sean being gay is never really clear. Sean thinks he was accepting and loved Aidan as a member of the family, but Simon remembers things differently.

The three-strong cast keep the audience entirely gripped throughout the one-act show that certainly has a lot to say.

Each of the actors gave an intense performance that really left a lasting impression.