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Pandas

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
4 stars
Pandas, as fans of Edinburgh Zoo will soon discover, can't really be
bothered with the mating game unless their perfect partner shows up.
It's a lesson all three couples in Rona Munro's new play for the
Traverse eventually learn from as their criss-crossing lives reach some
kind of understanding to cherish. Things open in the deceptively
domestic living room of clapped-out copper James and his moll Julie.
Julie's leaving James for Andy, a low-rent wheeler-dealer who's
importing panda rugs from China with the help of Jie Hui. Jui Hui's
first real life date with Lin Han after an extended courtship via email
comes a cropper when Andy is shot. And when Andy's old flame Madeleine
is interviewed by James, all emotional hell breaks loose.

At first glance, Munro's highly unlikely, serendipity-heavy yarn looks
like the sort of common or garden rom-com that was spawned at some
point in the 1990s and has never really let up since. Look closer,
however, at Rebecca Gatward's big, wide-open production on Liz Cooke's
cherry tree lined set, and its wild lurches into unbridled passion are
something else again.

If the second act's opening depiction of Andy's hospital bed out of
body experience comes over all Randall and Hopkirk as Julie and James
argue the toss, the first act ending as Meg Fraser's brittle as bamboo
Madeleine vents her spleen into a police microphone is a magnificently
demented monologue akin to live art confessional. In the end, any
counterfeit goods are left wanting in a charmingly wry and not always
cuddly merry-go-round that's about taking a chance on the mess of love
in a world that's sometimes left wanting.

The Herald, April 21st 2011

ends

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