Doig The Musical…

Aug 17 2017 | By More

Doig The Musical, With No Singing, No Dancing and Very Little Music

★★★★☆    Judicious and hilarious

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sun 6 – Sat 26 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a great deal that is hugely appealing, both in content and in assured comic performances, in Doig the Musical, With No Singing, No Dancing and Very Little Music at theSpace on the Mile.

What with that title and the name of the those responsible – New Celts Productions and Beyond The Llama Theatre – there surely cannot be room on a poster for much else. However, that is one of the few awkward elements of an extremely good production.

Barbara Wilkes and Fraser Burns. Pic : Beyond the Llama

This seems to be the first time Greg Freeman’s 2009 tragicomedy has appeared at the Fringe – which is odd because in many ways it is an ideal show. Disgraced businessman Doig is exhorted by a life coach to get back on track, but responds by losing shame completely, and seeking to drop out of consumerist society.

Despite a couple of modern references, there is something old-fashioned about the story, with definite hints of Reginald Perrin and Life of Brian. It is an intriguing if oddly familiar tale, full of comic and thematic possibilities.

The biggest problem is that title. Not only is it horribly unwieldy, it is misleading, and manages to alienate both people who like musicals and people who don’t – so that’s the whole theatre-going audience put off.

It is also an awkward length for a fringe show, pushing through the hour mark. Cleverly economical and pacy at first, the last half-hour becomes comparatively repetitive and predictable, and fifteen minutes could easily be lost.

pizzazz and sympathy

None of this is the fault of Beyond The Llama, who attack the distinctly grown-up humour with pizzazz and sympathy. Fraser Burns exudes comic authority as Doig, with perfect comic timing and impressively righteous fury. The character’s arc could seem ridiculous, but here it is perfectly natural, and it is difficult to imagine that anyone has rocked an IKEA bag the way he does here.

Fraser Burns and Siobhan Caldwell. Pic: Beyond the Llama

Stuart Robertson’s life coach Smith takes a little more time to get into the part, but his sneaky snake-oil salesman is ultimately impressive.

Siobhan Caldwell gives Doig’s sister Daisy a comic humanity, while Barbara Wilkes plays Doig’s former colleague Ralph with a spiky, self-defending air. What is impressive about both of these characterisations is that they seem to be real people despite the ludicrous situation they find themselves in. You could class this as ‘satire’, but it is altogether stranger and more complex than most works so labelled.

Ian Davie’s direction is taut and beautifully paced, with simple but effective use made both technology and old-school low-tech stage trickery.

It may be silly, but there is considerable bite to some of this. Supposedly ‘ethical’ consumption and designer labels may be easy targets but the points are well made. Not only that, but there is a real energy and commitment to the production which means it is highly recommended.

Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High Street, EH1 1TH,  (Venue 39)
Sunday 6 – Saturday 26 August 2017
Even dates only at 12.45 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company Facebook: @BeyondTheLlama
Twitter: @BeyondTheLlamaT


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