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The Bad Drive Well/Tongue Lie Tight

The Arches, Glasgow
4 stars
Artists can be delicate monsters. So, given the fraught nature of creative collaboration, this double bill of short plays by upcoming playwrights and theatre-makers Megan Barker and Alan McKendrick, with each co-directing the other’s work, could easily have ended in tears. As it is, the results are concentrated and accomplished enough to prove the experiment an understated hit of contrasting moods.

Barker’s Tongue Lie Tight, is an ennui-laden look at the communication breakdown between a couple seeking sanctuary in a sun-drenched resort from some un-named horrors at home. As Morag goes quietly demented in her hotel room, Seymour builds sandcastles with Gracie, a young girl with whom he finds an uncomfortable-looking connection. Loosely based on JD Salinger’s 1948 short story, A Perfect Day For Bananafish, Barker’s spare demotic leaves everything tantalisingly implied in a close-up of everyday madness which offsets its setting’s superficial brightness.

McKendrick’s take on relationships is far funnier, as Celine and Lenny fast-forward their way through the painful rituals of 21st century romance among the speed-dating lonely-hearts set. Both oddballs with a shared penchant for wrestling magazines and prone to rattling out a stream of hyper-tense one-liners, their awkward exchanges eventually ease into something that might just resemble a love affair in this peculiar, kookily off-kilter rom-com that’s a joy to watch.

If Rob Diamond and Patricia Kavanagh, who play all parts, don’t always have the weight to carry the painful subtleties of Barker’s piece, in The Bad Drive Well they are a hilarious motor-mouthed double act who find happiness beyond their solitary dysfunctions. Fine foils, then, for major writers in the making, caught at a crucial stage in their careers.

The Herald, May 21st 2007

ends

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