JOYCE MCMILLAN on SMALLTOWN at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 18.2.11
3 stars ***
AS EVERY OBSERVER of Scottish culture knows, Ayrshire produces far more than its fair share of gifted writers. “There must be something in the water,” quipped one critic a few months ago; and that throwaway remark became the inspiration for this evening of raunchy, roistering popular comedy, penned jointly by Ayrshire playwrights Douglas Maxwell of Girvan, D.C. Jackson of Stewarton, and Johnny McKnight of Ardrossan, with McKnight in the director’s chair.
The result is a noisy three-part show, with each writer contributing an episode set in his own home-town. The idea is that in an effort to raise some cash, Ayrshire Council has been flogging off bottled water from a well at the spot where Robert Burns supposedly lost his virginity. The water, though, is having weird effects, which vary from town to town; and so we plunge onto a rollercoaster of over-the-top comedy, ranging from Gogol-esque municipal satire in Girvan – where the water merely kills tourists – through to spoof zombie horror in Ardrossan, where it transforms harassed catering workers into the living dead.
And in Stewarton – well, in Jackson’s Stewarton the water literally turns the natives into randy, rutting animals; so that after dutifully losing her virginity so as to be upsides with the rest of her class, teenage heroine Ruby sips some, and morphs into a shudderingly sensual lady fox. For my money, this Stewarton episode is by far the funniest of the three, ferociously rude and sexy, with a terrific line in quick-fire teenage dialogue beautifully handled by Jonathan Holt and Sally Reid.
When the young Tron audience came to vote, though, on which of the three endings we would like to see, the zombies of Ardrossan won hands down; which says more about the perennial popularity of the movie spoof than it does about the quality of the drama, in a night of lightweight fun that’s now set to tour across Scotland, with final dates at the Traverse in March.