JOYCE MCMILLAN on AND THE BEAT GOES ON at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 28.3.15. _____________________________________________________
3 stars ***
THERE’S A GRAND metaphor at the heart of Stef Smith’s new threee-handed drama, co-produced by Random Accomplice and Horsecross, Perth; and if it never quite works, in theatrical terms, it’s difficult not to admire its ambition. The year is 1989; and in the garage attached to a house in suburban America, an emigre Scottish couple, Peter and Lily, are pursuing their strange, intense hobby, which involces rehearsing a Sonny & Cher tribute act, purely for their own pleasure.
Their uneasy harmony is interrupted by the arrival of new neighbour Joan, bearing what seem like traditional American gifts of bonhomie and apple pie; but the story behind all three characters is a dark one, involving a classic American surrealism – with images of dead and lost children – that carries echoes of Albee and Shepard.
In Kenny Miller’s production, though, the play never quite finds the right tone of surreal tragedy, despite the clear links between the false image of marital harmony projected by Sonny & Cher in the 1970’s, and the false suburban peace in which Peter and Lily live. Instead, two potentially brilliant performances by Johnny McKnight and Julie Brown remain trapped between comic spoof and tragic travesty; and although the play achieves a memorable look of fluorescent strangeness, and one spine-tingling moment when Lily glimpses the solo Cher of the late 1980’s, it too often wanders into a confused space between satire, dark poetry and social polemic, and struggles to find its way back.
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until tonight, Perth Concert Hall 2-4 April, and on tour across Scotland until 24 April.