Pirates And Mermaids
3 stars ***
Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30)
IN THE garden at the back of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, a handsome young man dressed in a smart kilt and jacket is opening his heart to a tiny audience of six other souls, gathered around him on a bench. The scene is supposed to be Central Park in New York; and in this new show by Poorboy Productions, Cameron – played with terrific, insistent charm by Jeremiah Reynolds – is telling us the story of his love for a Scottish girl called Eilidh, his childhood friend and sweetheart, who wants to stay in Scotland, while he needs to be in New York.
This is Pirates And Mermaids, the latest show by Scotland’s award-winning Poorboy company; and over a slightly over-long 90 minutes, Cameron leads us through all the twists and turns of the long-distance relationship, to an ending so inconclusive that the audience is invited to sign up for email updates, so that we can catch the next instalment. In terms of its apparatus, style and engaging approach to the audience, in other words, Pirates And Mermaids is a show to remember. Sadly, though, its content and story are fatally weak, from the original premise that Scots are temperamentally either “pirates” or “mermaids” – oh really? – to its weird and dodgy essentialist presumption that Eilidh is feisty, direct and outgoing because she is – well – Scottish.
For all I know, Americans in Central Park, and tourists visiting Edinburgh, may lap up this kind of stuff, which casts Scotland as a sweet little nation of quaintly lovable types. For myself, though, I think it has nothing to do with the future of Scotland, or of serious theatre made in Scotland; and not all Jeremiah Reynolds’s charm can redeem one of the weakest shows ever presented by a company which can usually be relied on to dig deep into the texture of life, and to come up with something much more rich and strange than this.