JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE CHOOKY BRAE (Borderline at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow) for The Scotsman 10.9.10
4 stars ****
THE CHOOKY BRAE is the third part of D.C. Jackson’s trilogy about growing up in small-town Ayrshire, following The Wall and The Ducky. What’s striking about this final play, though, is just how conventional it looks, given that it’s set not on the Chooky Brae itself, but in that most traditional of sit-com locations, the living-room of the troubled family at the heart of Jackson’s story, during a fraught Christmas dinner.
The Gordon family are a tragi-comic bunch, all right. Irene is a middle-aged schoolteacher, trying to hold it all together. Her errant husband Gordon is a notorious chancer, back in the family fold after apparently suffering a stroke. Her 22-year-old son Barry has declared himself a member of the lost generation, and does nothing but slump on the sofa. Her daughter Norma is a 19-year-old teenage mum, out of love with the baby’s Dad Trevor, and madly in love with Trevor’s brother Rab. And as Rab rolls up for Christmas dinner, things get memorably hot and messy, with animal jokes and analogies rolling round the stage like puppies, and family secrets not only coming out, but thumping their way through the walls in excructiating style.
In the end, though, it all feels just a bit routine, the verbal wit a shade laboured, the situation just too familiar for comfort, given the current vogue for surreal drama about the collapse of British family life. Director Kenny Miller and designer Neil Haynes wrap the play in an over-the-top domestic set that’s amusing in itself, but slightly cramps the pace of the action. The play thrives, though, on a series of brilliant performances, notably from Stewart Porter as Dad, and Sally Reid as Norma; and if there’s a feeling – following the festival success of his rom-com My Romantic History – that Jackson is now moving on from this familiar territory, The Chooky Brae stil provides a hugely entertaining night out, full of wit, wisdom, and heart.