JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE TROUBLE WITH DOUBLE at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 10.10.13.
3 stars ***
FIVE YEARS ON from his first huge success with The Wall, D.C. Jackson is emerging as a playwright with an intense interest in classic comedy form, and a gift for complex and hilarious one-liners. His difficulty, though, seems to lie in making these qualities work together to create a play with real resonance and meaning; and for all its formal neatness, this new 55-minute piece for the Play, Pie and Pint season gives the impression that some of its most obviously funny lines have been grafted onto the surface of the play, rather than emerging organically from the story.
The Trouble With Double is a classic wedding-day farce – set in the groom’s hotel bedroom – in which the big day is disrupted by the arrival of the bride Sally’s estranged and vengeful identical twin sister, Merrill. Posing as Sally, Merrill seduces the best man, who promptly spills the beans to the groom about his fiancee’s apparent unfaithfulness; cue endless confusion and mayhem, of a predictable but well-crafted kind.
Kenny Miller’s production could perhaps use a more naturalistic and less cartoonish approach; and the slightly awkward comic language and idiom of the play never quite match the deftness of the structure. Yet there are three clever, energetic performances from Robert Jack as the groom, Johnny Austin as the best man, and Louise McCarthy as the bride and her troublesome double; and all three seem to grow in confidence as the play rolls on, finding the right comic tone in the end, even if they struggle in some of the earlier scenes.
JOYCE MCMILLAN on OEDIPUSSY at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 10.10.13.
4 stars ****
THE SATIRICAL band Half Man Half Biscuit once had a song for it. “I’ve had a bad review, me girlfriend’s furious,” they intoned; and the theatre company Spymonkey were apparently so taken aback by a bad review I gave them a couple of years ago that they spend the first five minutes of their latest show going on about it, and describing how it has inspired (or something) their latest work.
Yet if you can stand the obligatory strand of jokey self-reflection that forms a key part of the company’s work, and have a high tolerance for slapstick, then it’s good to be able to report that Oedipussy, their current version of the Oedipus myth, represents an impressively complete account of one of the founding stories of our civilisation; not so much a send-up of the tale of the king who unknowingly killed his own father and married his mother, as a creditable and sometimes moving version of it, with added jokes.
So there’s the story of Oedipus, in all its mounting horror. There’s the slapstick, including an increasingly irritating running joke about the difficulty of manoeuvring large costumes through the narrow gaps between the columns of the set. There are are self-reflective out-of-character monologues for each of the cast, ranging from reductive Radio 4-style self-absorption to the quietly tragic; and there is some fine music, revisiting the Oedipus myth through a memorable and poignant moment of glam rock. Emma Rice’s production is colourful and ingenious, it features four thoughtful performances, and it handles the horror of the play’s ending with more feeling and imagination than some straight productions I have seen; and although this lightweight approach to the classics will always irritate some, Oedipussy is a show stuffed with talent, and – somewhere beneath the silly wigs – a true sense of tragedy.