Big Finish Review: Torchwood - Rhys and Ianto's Excellent Barbecue

Big Finish Review: Torchwood - Rhys and Ianto's Excellent Barbecue

Torchwood stalwarts Kai Owen and Gareth David-Lloyd return this month in a story that, more than simply being a fun foray with friends, addresses some surprisingly weighty subject matter.

Rhys and Ianto’s Excellent Barbecue has been written by Tim Foley, directed by Scott Handcock, with sound design from Joe Meiners. You can purchase it from the Big Finish website here, before it goes on general release on the 31st January 2021. Here's the synopsis.

Rhys is planning a lads' night in. Barbie in the back yard, few tins, mates and bants. But the only person who turns up is Ianto – who hasn't been invited. Hell is other people, especially when they've brought board games.

Something goes wrong. The two of them could be trapped together for eternity at a barbecue where the sausages never cook, and worse, the brewskis remain forever out of reach.

Also check out our take on last month’s Torchwood – The Three Monkeys.

Review

We’ve all been there: setting up for a house party or a gathering with family and friends, the food’s being prepared, excitement levels are high – only for a handful of people, or indeed no one, to turn up. Or, worse yet, a party full of awkward silences, simmering tensions, and groups of men standing around and talking about anything other than their feelings.

Rhys and Ianto’s Excellent Barbecue, in a similar vein to The Three Monkeys, is an intimate and low-key affair, wholly focused on the interplay between its two leads. It’s almost completely a two-hander for Kai Owen and Gareth David-Lloyd, alongside a supporting appearance from Youssef Kerkour, charting the pair’s ill-fated backyard barbecue meet-up one afternoon.

Rhys and Ianto would have to be categorised as among the most wholesome and morally ‘good’ characters in Torchwood. (Typically the rest of the main cast, including their respective partners Gwen and Jack, are the ones to do the dirty work and make the dubious moral decisions.) But despite their shared qualities – as faithful partners, and occasionally the comic relief – their excellent barbecue becomes considerably more contentious than planned, as their differing communication styles and ideas around friendship push up against one another.

The story might ostensibly appear to be a something of a comedy comp, and indeed writer Tim Foley inserts a flurry of comedic moments to lighten the tone, but the end result has more nuance and emotional richness than might be expected. Because this is ultimately Rhys’ story: he starts the evening organising a casual barbecue for the lads, and ends it with a new-found resolve to improve the quality of his relationships, particularly with his mates.

Foley has scripted a keenly apposite tale for the modern age. He layers in pertinent themes of grief, masculinity and male friendships to drive home a powerful message for characters and listeners alike. Start listening to Rhys and Ianto’s Excellent Barbecue for the barbecue puns and the banter, but come away with a reminder to check in with family and friends, and tell them you love them.

In the behind the scene interview, hear Owen, David-Lloyd and Kerkour share their perspectives on the story, and on the lockdown creative process, in the track of interviews at the end of the release. Guinea pigs also feature (obviously).

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