Tuesday, 6 September 2016


Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

In real life, the perils of the out of work actress rarely stretch beyond taking a second job to make ends meet. As Alan Ayckbourn proves in the second of his Damsels in Distress trilogy of plays, take play-acting to its logical limit and you'll end up making a real drama out of a crisis. So it goes for Rosie Seymore, who is co-opted as a stand-in janitor for the expensively bland London docklands flat where all three plays are set.

For Rosie, it's a gig considerably better than wearing rabbit ears in a Transit van schools tour, but not as good as the prospect of playing Jane Eyre on prime time TV. A knock on the door from next door neighbour Sam sees Rosie adopt the mantle of absent tenant, the mysterious Joanna Rupelfeld, which is when things really get weird.

Brought playfully to life for Pitlochry's summer season alongside its sister plays by director Richard Baron, FlatSpin is on the face of it a straight ahead comedy yarn. As breakout star of all three plays, Gemma McElhinney dons other people's outfits and imagined personalities as Rosie, there are far subtler exposes of of individual and collective identity crises at play here.

There are too some very British shades of turn of the century late night espionage yarns with double bluffing and often double crossing labyrinthine plots that see initially unwilling young women inveigled into doing the government's dirty work while taking on all manner of undercover guises. Think La Femme Nikita and Alias. By the end, however, the lady is pretty much the only thing that hasn't vanished in a comic fantasia of sex and subterfuge.

The Herald, September 6th 2016


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