The King’s Theatre in Edinburgh is a very appropriate venue for the revival of John Byrne’s classic play Cuttin’ A Rug. Audience members who are lucky enough to be sat in stalls can gaze up to the ceiling of the theatre and view a mural painted by the artist. As well as being a talented painter, John Byrne is a skilled playwright, with a long list of productions to his name.
Cuttin’ A Rug is the second play in Byrne’s Slab Boys Trilogy. It follows the 2015 Slab Boys revival from Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre and will no doubt look to continue the positive reception from audiences and critics.
The set is a black and white chequered board that presents the interior of a bathroom in a Paisley ballroom. Towards the back of the stage is a screen, which during scene transitions, displays illustrations and images of the town. The location is very much part of the story. The local vernacular is captured brilliantly and the bullish Paisley swagger is delivered with gusto and confidence by the cast. There is no doubt that we are in the west coast of Scotland. Cuttin’ A Rug follows on from where Slab Boys left off, where the characters of Terry (Mark Barrett), Spanky (Paul-James Corrigan), Phil (Ryan Fletcher) and Hector (Scott Fletcher) were struggling to find dates for a ball hosted by the carpet factory they work for. Lucille (Helen Mallon) and Bernadette (Louise McCarthy) are the unfortunate ladies who find themselves pursued by the men. They also give the standout performances of the show, where we get to witness the company ball and watch as the comedic and eventful evening unfolds.
Cuttin’ A Rug is a delightful farcical comedy that relies on the witty script and talented cast to make it a Scottish comedy classic. At times the story does feel a bit to drawn out, as the evening seems like a never ending series of bizarre events that do not appear to be heading towards a satisfying conclusion. However tragedy strikes and a resolution is found. The tragedy is downplayed, but the comedy in the piece underlines the quality of the writing and the ability of John Byrne to connect with theatre audiences at an emotional level.
Paisley is putting itself forward to be the 2021 UK City of Culture. Hopefully the judges of the award will get the chance to see Cuttin’ A Rug, as this along with the other plays in the Slab Boys trilogy will quash any doubt on the merit of this nomination.