An alcoholic’s intervention might seem a wonderfully amenable premise for a play. A locked door, a host of causes, conflicts and the promise of ritual humiliation make for intoxicating drama. But in the case of The Intervention, Dave Florez and Phil Nichol’s second Fringe collaboration, it's a conceit that feels a bit too purpose-built, a bit too-prefabricated. Despite being filled with compelling topics, The Intervention never approaches the discomforting curveball brilliance of last year’s award-winner, Somewhere Beneath It All, A Small Fire Burns Still.
As the friends and relatives of Zac—an alcoholic teacher—each have their right to intrude upon his life systematically dismantled, he emerges The Intervention's most dignified character. It’s a predictable process and the characters verge too closely on caricature. Certainly the cast—all familiar British TV faces—are convincing; particularly Nichol as Zac. Pathologically unable to do anything by half, the Canadian comic storms the stage nude and remains magnetic throughout.
The play isn’t helped by the blending of black comedy into an already thick, dark drink. Alongside themes of transvestitism and child abuse, Zac's bumbling buddy Henry insisting that he’s like an alcoholic but for Creme Eggs feels inappropriate. A Woody Allen-esque interjection—“It’s all cod psychology, but some of our best psychologists were cods”—is lost on a too-tense audience. Florez is certainly capable of witty writing but in this context it waivers. You want to intervene to draw attention to the gags but The Intervention's heavier themes deaden them, while the plot somewhat plods.