Festering family secrets lie at the heart of this impressive fast paced drama by Samuel Brett Williams. Focussing on the three Ballard brothers, Frank (Robert M. Foster), Ned (Malcolm Madera) and Johnny (Jake Silbermann), who arrive at the races following their father’s funeral earlier in the day, each with their own grievances and secrets. What starts off as barely civil swiftly degenerates into accusations, recriminations and alcohol fuelled confessions followed swiftly by outbreaks of violence as the day progresses and the alcohol flows.
It transpire that none of the brothers has been wholly successful in his life choices with Johnny fresh out of jail, Frank a recovering alcoholic and several failed marriages and Ned the archetypal womanising hard-drinking loser who suffers from the indignity of believing he was adopted. It seems there is little love between these three brothers and even less for their recently departed father referred to not so affectionately as The Old Bastard. Added to this dysfunctional trio is their waitress for the afternoon Becky (Teresa Stephenson) who, as an outsider, is able to spot the sibling rivalries, jealousies and competitive streaks then subsequently offers condolences, sympathy, advice and reprimands as and when they are appropriate.
This is an extremely strong ensemble production with all the actors giving stand out performances. A spare set and simple but effective lighting provide the right atmosphere and never detract from the dialogue or the acting. Moments of humour are handled as well as the serious issues here and provide a welcome relief when all the back biting and fighting seems like it is spiralling totally out of control. No easy answers are offered as a solution at its conclusion as this type of family issues never wholly resolve themselves anyway. Definitely a theatrical highlight at this year’s Fringe, Derby Day is a sure-fire winner!
Derby Day is on at 3pm daily at the Gilded Balloon until August 31st