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Trumpets and Raspberries

Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
3 stars
There’s been times during this year’s Lyceum season when it’s been hard to tell which decade we’re in. So devoted have been the homages to past theatrical styles that the result has been a kind of living museum, with little in the way of fresh substance to grab hold of. Tony Cownie’s updated Edinburgh version of Dario Fo’s 1980s political farce at least tries to make the play relevant, even if its madcap take on an injured industrialist who is mistakenly given the face of one of his workers never quite follows through.

Here we are, then, not in Fo’s Italy, but in a near future where David Cameron is Prime Minister, Menzies Campbell has been murdered by terrorists and political and trade union activism appears to have caught fire again. What’s become of Holyrood or the campaign for independence is anybody’s guess, as neither are mentioned. With such open goals missed, setting the play on our own doorstep is rendered pointless, and what we’re left with is a predictable round of finger-pointing at easy targets, fairground muzak signalling every joke, and a smoking ban gag past its sell-by date to the point of tedium.

Beyond all this, however, is a cracking pair of performances from Jimmy Chisholm and Kathryn Howden. Playing both factory worker Tony and plant owner Sir John, Chisholm’s switch between pop-eyed capitalist and libido-driven prole may miss another obvious real life scandal, but is manically observed. Kathryn Howden nails the moo-eyed Edinburgh wifie to a T, and the brilliant second act rally between the pair goes beyond politics to create a comic masterclass that leaves everything that preceded it irrelevant.

The Herald, April 20th 2008

ends

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