JOYCE MCMILLAN on NIGHTS BEFORE CHRISTMAS at the Village Pub Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 20.12.14. _________________________________________________________
4 stars ****
THERE’S A COSY back room in a famous Edinburgh pub, there’s cake, there’s laughter, and there’s a chance – for just £3 – to experience an evening of live script-in-hand performance, created by some of Scotland’s brightest young writers and actors. So it’s not surprising that Edinburgh’s Village Pub Theatre has fast become a such popular feature of the city’s grassroots theatre scene, or that such a merry crowd assembled on Wednesday night for VPT’s Christmas selection of tiny ten-minute plays.
Directed by Caitling Skinner and distinguished guest Philip Howard, this week’s show featured no fewer than nine Christmas-themed plays. Giles Conisbee’s Smoke And Satsumas shows a couple painfully trying to make a Christmas go of things, for their children, after an unnamed crisis that has destroyed the woman’s love for her man. Wiggly Worms by actor-writer Jonathan Holt explodes with theatrical energy, as two drugged-up toy-store assistants try to deal with a wholly inappropriate gift one of them has bought for a woman he fancies. Grace Cleary’s Spaso At Christmas plays wonderful word-games with the apparently confused Christmas perceptions of a girl who sees more than people think, and both Samuel Jameson’s Gigolo All The Way and Helen Shutt’s Leaves On the Line are like the first scenes of well-written, bitter-sweet modern rom-coms. The plays are tiny but bursting with promise; and the actors are heroes, as a five-strong team led by Jenny Hulse, Paul Cunningham and Victoria Balnaves Aitken, seize these tiny fragments of drama and make them live, for an audience who could hardly be happier if they were in the front row at Drury Lane.