King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
With the ongoing hoo-har regarding Scotland’s ever-changing plans to build a film studio running on apace, those behind such a move might wish to check out Marie Jones’ play, which dissects some of the unintended consequences of such a move in tragi-comic fashion. Rather than work with a cast of thousands, Jones’ play make a blockbuster using just two actors to convey how a small Irish community is turned upside down by the arrival of a Hollywood film crew. Between them, Owen Sharpe and Kevin Trainor play some fifteen characters to lay bare how willing exploitation can turn sour before the pair walk off into the sunset as heroes.
At the play’s heart are Jake and Charlie, a pair of extras on what looks like a historical romance, with all the windswept Irish clichés such an endeavour entails. Both down on their luck, they bond over the location’s food truck inbetween navigating their way around overbearing assistant directors, fawning runners and an American leading lady desperate to get back to her roots. If Jake and Charlie have stars in their eyes, the reality of just how fragile an economically starved diaspora can be even as it is being colonised and exploited is brought home by the presence of Jake’s teenage nephew, already on the scrapheap and exiled from the glamourous scenes going on around him.
When Jones’ play was first seen in Edinburgh at the Traverse Theatre in 1996, the economic boom of Ireland’s so-called Celtic Tiger was in full swing. Lindsay Posner’s touring revival for the Theatre Royal, Bath and Rose Theatre Kingston doesn’t attempt to update things, but instead makes a comic mockery of all the Irish clichés that abound on the big screen. Through this, Jake and Charlie become a kind of Beckettian double act for whom the closing credits haven’t quite rolled yet. Sharpe and Trainor flit between characters in an instant in a contemporary classic which leans towards a feel-good happy ending in the face of adversity.
The Herald, April 4th 2019