Sunday, March 21, 2010

"The Miracle Man" - March 2010

Saturday 8th November 2008. That's the last time I had as much fun in a theatre as I did last night. Not since the magnificent "Midsummer" have I seen a play deliver laughs so strongly and consistently. We drove home with Waldorf scanning the scriptbook for the lines that had amused us the most - and discovering new ones we'd missed because we were laughing too much.

Created and presented as part of the National Theatre of Scotland's 'tfd' season of 'shows for young people', Douglas Maxwell's "The Miracle Man" appeals far beyond its stated audience. While set in a school with all it's associated girl/boy issues, the core of the piece is more about PE teacher Ozzy and his ill father than the pupils. Avoiding any sense of preaching, if there's a message for the 'young people' to take away it's that life can be pretty damn hard for adults too, and that they are every bit as capable of screwing things up as you are.

Maxwell throws plenty of issues into the mix - religion, race, death, loneliness, purity rings, body image and the weight of parental expectation. Some are treated with more depth than others and on occasion it does feel an issue is there to serve the comedy rather than vice versa but they all feel integral to the play. Maxwell also delivers some truly heartbreaking moments as he drip feeds us fragments of Ozzy's story.

Keith Fleming gives a wonderfully quiet and subtle performance as Ozzy, in sharp contrast to a riotously comedic portrayal of the school's headmaster by Jimmy Chisholm. Charlene Boyd, Shabana Bakhsh & Ross Allan are uniformly excellent as the students while Sally Reid shows here that she's capable of producing an impressive performance in a more serious, adult role than we're used to seeing her in.

With a run time of 2 hours 30 minutes (including interval) it amazed me how short this felt. It's beautfully paced, both in Maxwell's writing and Vicky Featherstone's direction and complemented by Georgia McGuinness' fabulous set and Natasha Chivers' lighting design. (And special thanks to those responsible for the revelation that there's more to "The Go! Team" album on our iPods than 'Ladyflash'.)

An outstanding piece of theatre for teenagers - and anyone who used to be one.

The Miracle Man has completed its run at the Tron and now tours to Musselburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen.
Image by Eamonn McGoldrick used with permission.