JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE FUNDRAISER at the Salutation Hotel, Perth, for The Scotsman 8.11.14. _________________________________________________________
3 stars ***
WITH PERTH’S beautiful Edwardian theatre closed for refurbishment, the theatre company is out on the road, entertaining audiences in pubs, halls and community centres across Perthshire. I doubt if anyone at Perth Theatre ever imagined, though, that their travels would lead them into such an agonising, interesting and vivid theatrical car-crash as this brief but unforgettable production of the latest play by actress and emerging playwright Lesley Hart.
The show takes the form of a fund-raising event staged by asthma sufferer Tina (eloquently played by Sally Reid) and her friend and manager Rachel (Claire Knight), to raise money for her forthcoming attempt to swim the Channel. So the pair appear in dazzling red chorus-girl outfits, with feathers and sparkly sky-high shoes, and begin what should be an evening of auctions, raffles, films of Tina in training, and the occasional song, all delivered in endearingly amateurish style.
Enter the villainess, though, in the shape of Tina’s monstrously egotistical mother (Libby McArthur), a Scottish television personality with her own chat-show, who left Tina and her Dad while she pursued her career, but is now determined to muscle in on Tina’s big night; and events take a disconcertingly dark turn, fiercely out of tune with the playful tone of the evening so far. The pace of the show is shambolic, the writing is sometimes stilted, the awkwardness and deliberate amateurism often more excruciating than amusing. Yet there’s something admirable about the sheer, bold darkness of a play that shows Tina’s dream reduced to rubble, amid all the glitter and feathers; and if The Fundraiser is a show that doesn’t quite work, it blazes with promise, all the same.