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The Apprentice

Oran Mor, Glasgow - Mon 24-Sat 29 March 2008
4 stars
Two men in black walk into a cheap hotel room with a contract to fulfil. All buttoned-up in classic gangster chic, old hand Carter and new boy Johnson await their prey. Carter knows the rules inside out, and has little to say on the subject. Johnson is a bag of nerves, and has yet to absorb the old-fashioned protocols of his recently acquired profession. Over increasingly tense exchanges in the pair’s accidental waiting room, however, things change.

Martin McCardie’s blisteringly understated two-hander is Harold Pinter’s The Dumb Waiter reimagined for a post Tarantino generation. Here, though, all self-conscious stylistic ironies are scraped off the verbal riffing and renewed menaces put in their place for good measure. It’s a brilliantly precise piece of writing for Oran Mor’s ongoing A Play, A Pie and a Pint season of lunchtime plays. Stuart Davids’ perfectly paced production is awash with cinematic attention to detail in both its look and performances.

Rita McGurn’s cramped interior set is a dead-ringer for 1970s back-street B&B land. The old-fashioned Bakelite phone; the all-seeing crucifix hanging on the wall; the way Neil Leiper’s lanky Johnson wears a suit like he’s just back from juvenile court; all of it is forensically, claustrophobically correct. Even the fact that Carter’s name references the best British gangster film ever made can be no accident. McCardie’s cut-throat sharp script is similarly brutal and sentiment-free. As Johnson’s awkwardly focussed energy eventually walks a little taller, any tendency Carter might have for pulp fiction clichés are turned inwards. David McKay’s wonderfully observed sense of hangdog aggression is worth the ticket price by itself in a fascinating piece of existential noir.

The Herald - Tue 25 March 2008

ends

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