Two estranged brothers, one urn full of their dad’s ashes and a long journey to Ireland.
The play’s story is simple, and has a lot of potential to be both humorous and touching. Yet, it struggles to deliver either well. It’s a fun play with lots of comic moments, but they generate chuckles rather than laughs. The punch lines are too obvious with generally poor comic timing from the actors.
The audience receives only shallow dips into the depths of the main characters, and it’s difficult to root for either character. The range of emotions is limited to grumpiness and a begrudging appreciation of each other. The reveals at the end would have fitted better as initial developments early on in the play in order to create empathy, and with deeper levels subtly woven throughout the story without using monologues.
Daniel, played by Matt Keast, is a typical washed-up man where everything has gone wrong in his life. Luke, played by Sam Pomeroy, is the wealthier brother who complains and misses his home comforts. However, instead of becoming the character for the play, Pomeroy projects and displays whiny rich man for the audience – and himself – to laugh at. The father’s presence is something the play fails to expand on. The urn the brothers carry for so many miles is just an object. It would have been interesting if they regarded it as though their father were travelling with them and they developed their relationship with him as well as each other.
Luke and Daniel are two brothers who have never liked each other and whilst that dynamic is apparent, the actors’ chemistry is not. Instead, their interaction resembles a tennis rally, as they shout almost every line with little variety in expression or emotions. They may benefit from having more actors on stage, rather than just Pomeroy and Keast, for more interesting dynamics. However, the drugged boat trip is an excellent scene as the actors have fun with the sheer absurdity of the situation.
It’s an energetic play, which unfortunately leads to rushed pacing as it leaps through scenes and loses the audience as they shuffle the set about for the next part. A number of things could be smoother; the flitting between the phone call and introductory monologue is clumsy, and the video has very pointed pauses as they wait for the live characters to speak.
Tom Turner’s use of video to deliver messages from the father (Richard Haighton) and Siri (Kathy Towns) is excellent with great editing and adds interesting elements to the story. The set is lovely, consisting of handmade road signs positioned around the stage, with tall blocks decorated with maps. These blocks are used in a variety of creative and clever ways to create settings, from boats to sofas and cars.
Whilst full of jokes, fast dialogue and action, 603 Miles lacks the spark this comedy deserves.