JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE DEVIL WEARS PRIMARK at Dundee Rep, for The Scotsman 6.4.15. _____________________________________________________
2 stars **
FIRST, let’s be clear about one thing. If you like your evening of theatre to include a bit of sexy, acrobatic fire-eating, delivered by a slim and muscular blonde who – for added excitement – uses a welding-torch to strike sparks from her own metallic thong, then The Devil Wears Primark is the show for you, as it tours across Scotland this month.
If, on the other hand, you are looking for a coherent stage sit-com with a few decent belly laughs, then perhaps you should try elsewhere; for this super-grotesque tale of the London-Greek-Cypriot agony aunt from hell, written by and starring the talented Kathleen Ruddy, starts out by sending up Aunt Athy’s ludicrous right-wing misogyny, as purveyed on her morning radio show, and ends up producing a portrait of a monster middle-aged mother that’s as savagely misogynistic as Aunt Athy’s own broadcast advice.
Around this bulging figure, Athy’s family revolve as best they can, with John Ritchie as feeble son Aris, Dawn Chandler as chubby daughter Maria, Mark McDonnell as husband Nico, and Penni Tovey as Mina, the fire-eating possible daughter-in-law, all squeezing the odd laugh from the play’s ferociously ambivalent dialogue. In the final scenes, we’re invited to laugh at the idea of Athy having a stroke, and yet to cheer when she rises from her wheelchair to scupper Aris and Mina’s romance one more time. Reader, the sheer garishness and confusion made my mind hurt; and it wasn’t that funny, either.
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, 17 April; Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline, 18 April; and on tour until 25 Aprll.