Assembly Hall, Edinburgh
Winners and losers are everywhere in Johnny McKnight and Anita Vettesse’s new play with songs for a co-production between Grid Iron and Stellar Quines theatre companies. It’s bingo night, and hopes are high for the regulars who flock to the local Mecca. Desperate thirty-something Daniella especially has her fingers crossed after a financial mess of her own making looks set to catch up with her. With her hatchet-faced mother Mary and her best pal Ruth in tow, it’s eyes down for an all or nothing game to end them all.
As it stands, Jemima Levick’s loose-knit production tugs in so many directions it’s as if those creating it got bored with their own initial idea and decided to ramp things up to preposterous proportions in order to make things more interesting. One minute it’s a girls’ night out style feel-good romp; the next it’s a turbo-charged fantastical sit-com, barely based in reality and peppered with potty-mouthed one-liners, pink-stetsoned stand-offs and smatterings of high and low campery.
A cast led by a heroic Louise McCarthy as Daniella give it their all, but amidst the appealing kitsch of Alan Penman’s show-tunes and a serious message about financial hardship in working-class communities, there is much here that is surplus to requirements. Barbara Rafferty’s Henry the Hoover wielding Joanna, for instance, appears to have wandered in from another show, and indeed merits one all of her own.
There’s a mighty fine play in here somewhere, but it needs a heap of work to chisel away the excess baggage it’s currently saddled with before it can fully connect. While there is much to enjoy on a surface level, at the moment it feels like a first draft work-in-progress for something bigger, brasher and brighter yet to come.
The Herald, March 12th 2018