Friday, August 13, 2010

"Jacobite Country" - Edinburgh Fringe 2010

It was very tempting for this review to simply read "If you can't say something nice..." but we like to think that we're better than that. So I will try to convey how bad this was - although I suspect 'Option 1' may have been kinder.

Over the four years we've been writing reviews at View From The Stalls we've seen over 300 shows and Jacobite Country is undoubtedly in the bottom five. It is painful to watch and has no redeeming qualities.

Set in a mental institution in the Scottish highlands we are introduced to Haggis McSporran (Sarah Haworth) who fancies himself as a stand up comic and local bad lad Craitur Face (Fiona Morrison). The cast is completed by Annie Grace as Uncle Angus and Mairi Morrison in a number of roles. The observant amongst you may have picked up on the fact that 3 of these male characters are portrayed by female actors - and one of Mairi Morrison's roles is also male. Now, I have no problem with cross-gender casting and it can often bring a new angle to a play, but this is simply bizarre. There is no obvious rationale behind it and it would seem straightforward enough if the company wished to use a female cast to rework the text a little. And what makes it worse is that another of Mairi Morrison's characters appears to be a female nurse - named Eddy.

McSporran's stand up routines are pretty awful but I'm prepared to give writer Henry Adam the benefit of the doubt that this was intentional - however this makes it no less painful for the audience. The only moment during the whole play that got a laugh out of me was a line about the previous comic persona of a Scottish comedian who made it big in the States - a gag I'm certain flew over the heads of at least 90% of the audience.

What follows appears to be intended as a comic romp with Haggis and Craitur Face on the run - including encounters with Craitur's gun-totting, mobster granny and a showbiz agent. We also get a subplot about Uncle Angus and his nationalist extremist campaign. Now some of these scenes may be delusions but I was long past caring by this point - as were many others in the audience. I'd put the initial audience at around 30 and we lost our first two after twenty minutes, and then another one around an hour, quickly followed by another two. There may have been other escapees sitting further back that I didn't notice and there were at least two 'sleepers'.

To be fair to the cast, there's nothing wrong with their performances. It's just that, with the exception of a couple of pointed lines about Scottish identity, the whole thing is drivel. I haven't the faintest idea what made writer Henry Adam, director Matthew Zajac and Dogstar Theatre decide to mount this production.

The one saving grace of the afternoon is that although we have a policy of not accepting press tickets we're happy to take advantage of offers open to the general public - so my ticket was free courtesy of an offer in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper.

I hate that I've had to write such a negative review and I hate the fact it may be to the detriment of a small theatre company. So I'll just say this... If you were considering seeing "Jacobite Country" - don't. Instead go and see Dogstar Theatre's other show at this year's Fringe - "The Tailor of Inverness". It's a fantastic piece of theatre which we enjoyed immensely last year.

Jacobite Country runs at Udderbelly Pasture until 30th August (not the 16th)
The Tailor of Inverness runs at Udderbelly Pasture until 30th August (not the 16th)
Image used with permission.

5 Heckles

Jessica said...

I was despondent after seeing this. Where did it all go wrong for this company? The actors looked at us in bewilderment that we weren't laughing. Poor souls. The company needs to have a serious conversation with itself.

Anonymous said...

Pull the plug on this one and save some credability. Everyone makes mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I'm very surprised at the review and heckles. I really enjoyed this production. The humour was very dry, very Scottish and quite savage. Perhaps it's the sort of show that's been lacking at the Fringe for so long. The main problem for me was that the performance space wasn't intimate enough. The pockets of people were laughing but it was lost due to the size of the venue.

Anonymous said...

I am in complete agreement with the intial reviewer. I found it a cliche ladden and moronically dull waste of a great theatrical venue @the E4Cowbarn. I did not laugh once and I TRIED to fall asleep.
THE PLAYWRIGHT is to blame on this one! As a highlander I felt cheated by his vacuous representation of my northern culture with a script that was completely unworkable. And why add on the Highland dancing?! Why always the bagpipes?! Aren't we more than a postcard? I'm surprised they didn't drop a life sized Nessie onto the set... now THAT would have been funny.

David Graham Scott said...

That really made me laugh out loud! Not your play....The reviews of course. What happened to the great Henry Adam? Back on the junk I guess.