Bring me the head of Johnny Murdock

Mar 26 2015 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Slick trick

Scottish Storytelling Cenre: Wed 25 March 2015

Sharp, slick and oozing attitude, Strange Town Youth Theatre bring all the dynamism of cinema action onto the Scottish Storytelling Centre stage for one night only.

It would be an understatement to say that Sam Siggs’ short play is Tarantino-esque. It has Tarantino pouring out of it like blood from a gaping head-wound: running from the top of its sharp-cut black suits to the tips of its scarlet painted toenails.

Catie Johnston as Amy "squeaker" Benson. Photo Strange Town

Catie Johnston as Amy “squeaker” Benson. Photo Strange Town

Catie Johnston plays Amy “squeaker” Benson, a downtrodden teenager whose home life is of the dead-end variety and whose stepfather, Johnny Murdock, has driven her beyond despair with actions that are no longer appropriate.

Her best pal is Scooby – so called because he doesn’t have a Scooby about anything – in whom William Goodrich invests the properly hangdog, hanger-on attitude of one who wanders into situations with his eyes wide shut.

It is around these two failures that Siggs has constructed his mythologising comedy. He takes the truth of their mundane lives and gives it to his eight-strong chorus to re-imagine. In their uniformly sharp black suits (school uniform as you would have wanted it to look when you were 15) the chorus find playground whispers and corner shop rumours, so that the key episodes of the pair’s journey are repeated and honed until a suitably audacious and feel-good conclusion is reached.

It’s all played out on a black-box set, with only Amy and Scooby in costume. A badge here and a pink hoodie there help the chorus create the surrounding wasters and ne’er do-wells. Which affords them an easy recognition factor for each character, while leaving plenty of room for characterisation.

strong vitality

There’s Kirsten Sherry, all vicious arrogance as Grace, completely thrown when Amy gives her £50 advance for the provision of Johnny Murdock’s head in a bag. And Christopher Dunlop both offhand when Amy turns up at his shop to get her money back when Grace bottles it, and overawed when she comes over all Uma Thurman.

But in truth, there are no stand-out performances, as director Ruth Hollyman ensures her whole chorus bring a strong vitality to the production, allowing both their bravura and a level of (often very sick) comedy to shine through.

As a script, Siggs has created an exciting new piece for the youth theatre cannon – dark, slick and sharp with solid core of great roles for any gender.

It is harder to see any group taking it on and giving it such an audacious showing as this particular production, however. Darkly hilarious, it also provokes questions about how, as a society, we construct the  myths with which we deconstruct our surroundings.

Running time 55 minutes
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR
Wednesday 25 March 2015 only.
Strange Town website:


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