A sharp new production by director Gemma Fairlie takes this well-known piece back to its roots in the theatre. The ensemble cast at Pitlochry treat the audience to an evening of laughs, pathos and unforgettable music. Best known for the breakthrough performance of Jane Horrocks, for whom it was originally written, the play has many poetic layers. In amongst the dialogue, there is the gift of longer monologues, full of clever twists. These elevate the characters from the grime of their lives and help you understand how mother and daughter have arrived in this parlous situation. It’s a wonderful challenge for the actors and this cast rise to it.
Laura Costello, in her professional stage debut as LV does not try to be a Jane Horrocks, but brings her own interpretation to the timid and reclusive daughter, listening to her father’s old LPs in her bedroom. She interprets the vocal delivery of Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe and Edith Piaf with aplomb, particularly in Judy’s version of Come Rain or Come Shine. Her final version of Bassey’s This Is My Life emulates the Welsh singer’s distinctive physical style and brings the house down.
The outstanding performance is by Deidre Davis, who brings us a full on physical interpretation of Mari, the drunken selfish wreck of a mother. Her energy never diminishes. One moment she makes us laugh and the next we are angry at the selfish way she uses and abuses her daughter. It’s not until the final monologue when she contemplates the burnt-out carcass of her home that you understand why she has arrived at this place with “her soul leaking over the floor”.
Carl Patrick captures the seedy, “on the take” club promoter Ray Say perfectly, balancing and exploiting the relationship between mother and daughter in style. His drunken appearance at the mic in the end says it all perfectly. A terrific turn.
Other members of the ensemble – Isaac Stanmore as Billy, operating the cherry picker with style, and Alan Steele as playing Mr Boo like Larry Grayson, give strong supporting performances. Irene-Myrtle Forrester brings a comic turn to Sadie “all lard and love” as she plods up and down the staircase.
Becky Minto has designed a set of a two-up-two-down with a challenging staircase that works well on the intimate yet spacious stage at the Festival Theatre. The orange street lamp is a winner. Bringing in red tabs and a single spotlight immediately transitions the stage into the nightclub where the audience realise they have become the customers in the club. Where did she find Ray’s shirt?
Director Gemma Fairlie has replaced the traditional black-out with a light and movement sequence which enables the actors to transition from one scene to another. This reflects well the ongoing problems with the faulty home electrics and the final stunning light show as LV finally finds her voice. She has taken a play that is difficult to balance and sometimes challenging and created a strong and enjoyable evening of entertainment.
What could be better on a beautiful summer’s evening to exit the foyer of a theatre in a stunning location and feel that you have experienced a terrific evening out? London, Edinburgh eat your heart out.