Monday, November 10, 2008

"Midsummer [A Play With Songs]" - November 2008

Traverse Theatre Company's "Midsummer [A Play With Songs]" is not a musical, let's get that out of the way right at the beginning. It's not. No I'm actually not being facetious. It does what it says on the tin; it's 'a play with songs'. David Greig and Gordon McIntyre have meshed together theatre with music in an almost cinematic way - the music forms part of the soundtrack of the story. It's not just an incidental but integral part of it but without the full on inate ridiculousness of a song and dance extravaganza.

A story of a chance encounter between Helena (Cora Bissett) and Bob (Matthew Pidgeon), and the resulting weekend spanning Midsummer 2008 in Edinburgh (although possibly an Edinburgh in a parallel universe as 24th June is a Saturday, not a Tuesday, in this one). Chock full of references to the city that is its setting we Weegies probably only got half of, however at no point did we feel like we were sitting in the middle of a private joke.

The story of Helen and Bob, and the characters that weave in and out of their weekend is filled with joy, absurdity and heartache. The fourth wall doesn't so much as come down, but is non-existant from the start as the audience becomes confidante to both characters. The interaction between those on stage and those watching is as important as what is happening to the two protaganists. With some lovely set pieces you're drawn into the tale that's unfolding in front of you. An ingenious set designed by Georgia McGuiness completes this visual feast. The devil is in the detail, with a programme that's supplied with a random vinyl record (ours was Don't Make My Brown Eyes Blue by Crystal Gayle), a code to download a couple of the songs from the show and a link to Medium Bob's Flikr Photostream. The only thing missing was one of Traverse's ubiquitous script books.

In an hour and 45 minutes Bissett and Pidgeon produce two excellent performances in demanding roles that require a huge amount of physical acting and the ability to sing and play guitar. Their performances and a clever script charm you into liking two people who with all their flaws you really shouldn't. I came out grinning, and will look back on the show with a warm glow similar to what "Venus As A Boy", "Molly Sweeney" and"Amada" have left.

Photo by Douglas Robertson. Used with permission.

2 Heckles

Statler said...

What she said. One of the best productions I've seen this year, and certainly the most enjoyable.

Bluedog said...

Saw your piece, bought tickets last minute and loved it.

It is coming back apparently, possibly for the Festival, when there will be a script!