Good Things

May 5, 2017 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆      Heartfelt

Church Hill Theatre: Thurs 4 – Sat 6 May 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

There are plenty of Good Things in the Edinburgh Makars’ production of Liz Lochhead’s play of that name, in a production that is solid if not spectacular.

Lochhead’s comedy is in one sense ideal for amateur companies, with its romantic storyline featuring middle-aged characters being a perfect fit for the audiences and actors of many such ensembles.

Mollie Johnson (Natalie), Beatrice Cant (Susan) and Derek Melon (Frazer) in the Edinburgh Makars' <em>Good Things</em>. Pic: Martin Burnell

Mollie Johnson (Natalie), Beatrice Cant (Susan) and Derek Melon (Frazer) in the Edinburgh Makars’ Good Things. Pic: Martin Burnell

Central character Susan, a recent divorcee who is volunteering in a charity shop, very much dominates the narrative, and Beatrice Cant’s grounded, complex and commendably subtle portrayal gives the production real substance. Mike Appleby, as laidback widower David, is equally believable and likeable.

Another facet of the piece that would appear to benefit amateur companies – the large number of supporting characters – is more of a mixed blessing. The script is set up so that these characters can all be played by two performers with the aid of quick changes. If, as is the case here, they are played by several different actors (although there is still some doubling) a couple of things become clear.

The first is that a lot of the humour involved in a character, for example, spending a long time in a changing room, is lost when we haven’t seen the actor in another guise in the interim. Similarly, many of the characterisations are resolutely on the broad side, which adds to the fun when they are a series of exaggerated portrayals by the same people, but otherwise is much less effective.

Here, director Jo Barrow elicits a series of realistic, occasionally underplayed performances that are very fine on their own terms, but limit the possibilities for humour.

an emotionally arresting work

Derek Melon does successfully emphasise both the comic and tragic sides of Susan’s confidante Frazer, while Anne Trotter’s self-obsessed shop manager Marjorie is suitably appalling. The other parts – with the exception of Carol Davidson’s expansive Doris – have little impact. This is not the fault of Tom Brown, Giulia Frontalini, Chester Parker, Chester Parker and Alan Melon, but it does mean that the play’s shortcomings are brought into sharp relief.

It shares many of the themes and preoccupations of Lochhead’s earlier Perfect Days, but is less sharp. Routine and repetition dominate, with too many ‘important’ speeches, too much exposition, and most of the real drama happening offstage. It cannot avoid dragging a little, especially when the interval is taken so early.

Despite that, it remains an emotionally arresting work, with a great deal of humour, although the jokes need more energy and conviction that they often get here. With the aid of a carefully constructed and stocked set, there is more than enough recognisable, heart-tugging human interaction here to satisfy.

Running time 2 hours 20 minutes (including intervals)
Church Hill Theatre, 33a Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Thursday 4 – Saturday 6 May 2017
Daily at 7.30 pm
Information and tickets: http://www.edinburghmakars.com/book.html

Giulia Frontalini (Cheryl), Anne Trotter (Marjorie), Derek Melon (Frazer), Alan Melon (Flower delivery boy), Beatrice Cant (Susan), Mike Appleby (David), Chester Parker (Tony) and Carol Davidson (Scotch Doris) in the Edinburgh Makars' <em>Good Things</em>. Pic: Martin Burnell

Giulia Frontalini (Cheryl), Anne Trotter (Marjorie), Derek Melon (Frazer), Alan Melon (Flower delivery boy), Beatrice Cant (Susan), Mike Appleby (David), Chester Parker (Tony) and Carol Davidson (Scotch Doris) in the Edinburgh Makars’ Good Things. Pic: Martin Burnell

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