Wednesday, July 15, 2009

"Cooking with Elvis" - July 2009

As evidenced by our lack of recent posts, much of the Scottish theatre world seems to shut up shop over the summer period (with the exception of a few shows previewing in the run up to the Edinburgh Fringe in August). So it's great to see the Tron opening a full scale production in mid July and doing a good bit of promotion to get audiences in - including a half price pre-show burger offer in their restaurant for ticketholders. If only the show was as good as the dinner I had before it...

Before I start, I need to be clear that the problems I have with Lee Hall's play aren't with it tackling issues many would consider inappropriate subjects for humour - domestic violence, disability, eating disorders and two incidents sufficient for an entry on the Sex Offenders Register. I love shows that are darkly or wickedly funny but there are criteria that have to be met:
1. It has to make me laugh spontaneously and despite myself.
2. I have to be aware at the time that I shouldn't be laughing, or have later events shock me in a not so funny now then, eh? kind of way.
Tonight's show rarely, if ever, met those criteria. And more than that, I found it quite uncomfortable to be in an audience who appeared to be laughing guilt-free at much of the dark humour without any acknowledgement of the inappropriate edge to it. At one point it did look as if we were heading for a not so funny now ending but in opting for a conveniently comfortable conclusion the play, in my opinion, 'bottled it'.

And I'm afraid that despite an excellent performance from Gavin Mitchell as Dad the Elvis moments didn't really work for me - well not in the context of the rest of the play at any rate - although to be fair to the piece, surreal stuff rarely works for me. Jayd Johnson as fifteen year old Jill gives a confident central performance in both the comic and emotional scenes and Deirdre Davis and Martin Docherty complete a strong cast as Jill's Mum and her lover Stuart.

Despite the performances, a fantastic set, Elvis soundtrack and a razzamatazz finish the show feels a let down. It lacks the sharp, clever humour to get me laughing at things I know I shouldn't be and didn't deliver the powerful kick in the stomach it should have been capable of doing. And disappointingly many of the 'twists' and moments of farce were predictable from very early on.

Cooking with Elvis runs at the Tron until Saturday 25th July
Image by Tim Morozzo used with permission