The wedding band are already playing when the audience enter the National Theatre of Scotland’s scaled-up revival of David Greig and Gordon McIntyre’s play with songs. A decade ago when it premiered, it was a zero-budget DIY rom-com with two actors playing Helena and Bob, the oddest of couples who collide into one another and accidentally go on a lost weekend to end them all. Today, Kate Hewitt’s production has Eileen Nicholas and Benny Young play the older version of Helena and Bob, unveiling their possibly unreliable memoirs and looking back at their younger selves, played with sweaty abandon by Sarah Higgins and Henry Pettigrew.
This makes for a busy and at times frenetic ninety minutes, as the cross-generational quartet cavort among discarded wooden tables, moving from wine bar to bedroom to sex club, taking in some of Edinburgh’s lesser-spotted sights as they go. At times this has the feel of an adult It’s a Knockout party game set to music. The latter is provided by long-time stalwarts of Edinburgh’s ever-fertile off-radar music scenes, bass player Clarissa Cheong and cellist Pete Harvey, plus actor-musician Reuben Joseph.
While the combination of Greig’s script and McIntyre’s songs remain a love letter to Edinburgh, splitting the words between older and younger voices gives things an extra layer of personal ennui. Helena and Bob lived to tell the tale of their mad, debauched adventure, they can remember the first time, and are still together and possibly still crazy after all these years. This isn’t, then, a tale of lost opportunities, but of Bob and Helena’s willingness to take a chance on each other in a way that changes their lives forever. As they grab at every moment from the past, present and possible future, they make those moments matter more with every telling.
The Herald, August 7th 2018