Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
This is very definitely the modern world in Douglas Maxwell’s of-the-moment new play, which brings the desperation of a broken Britain close to home. Eve Nicol’s punchy production does this by way of a cross-generational confrontation between a pop culture academic who’s lost his mojo and an asylum seeker in mod’s clothing possessing the hyped-up zeal of a convert.
Nebli Basani is Jimmy, who has bought into what he sees as the quintessential British lifestyle statement. His mohair suit, pork pie hat and parka may be box-fresh, but the ideas that sired them are as second-hand as his name. This is something Paul McCole’s Stevie is only too glad to tell Jimmy when he turns up at his front door looking for a signature, both for Stevie’s largely forgotten book on mod culture, and for the substantive statement that will give Jimmy access all areas to Britain. A rude awakening awaits them both, alas, as the auto-destructive energy that fires them erupts into a turbo-charged culture clash that calls the authenticity of both into question.
There is fun to be had at the start of the play when Jimmy lollops into view on Jen McGinley’s living room set, with Basani lending him a manic edge, motor-mouthed, pop-eyed and totally wired. As Stevie, McCole presents an equally tragi-comic foil, who is jolted into getting back to his own roots. Beyond the initial comic value of the set-up, ideas of identity, belonging and everyday tribalism are laid bare throughout the play’s 75-minute short, sharp shock.
With the action punctuated by Michael John McCarthy’s meaty, beaty, big and bouncy sound design, there is a ballsiness at play that recalls the sort of street-smart work that infiltrated the stage back in the 1970s, reinvented as a play very much for today. By the end, both men may still be here, but keeping the faith is another thing in a show that’s explosively on target.
The Herald, December 12th 2019