For the Love of Cousins

Mar 11 2016 | By More

★★★☆☆      Fiesty

Wee Red Bar: Tue 8 – Fri 11 Mar 2016
Review by Thom Dibdin

Zipping along with a fiery energy and a nice turn in family backchat, For the Love of Cousins provides an entertaining hour in the immersive confines of the Wee Red Bar.

Blazing Hyena’s latest production is set in real time, over the hour before Grandma’s funeral, in her front room where her seven grandchildren are meeting up before paying their last respects.

Kate Foley-Scott and Jack Elliot. Photo: Monika Nizio

Kate Foley-Scott and Jack Elliot. Photo: Monika Nizio

It is a nicely finessed set-up, with writer Jack Elliot bringing some finely detailed characters to the room. Although they are not all as well drawn as they are conceived, and he rather wants for somewhere meaningful to take them.

Director Catherine Exposito keeps it small in scale and sharp in delivery, despite a relatively large, ten-strong cast. Her clear direction ensures that the space never feels crowded, however, and she does a nice job in bringing out different conversations in far corners of the room.

The company have learned their lessons well from previous use of the same space and succeed in playing to all areas of a room that is both immersive, in that the stage bleeds into the audience, and in the round.

strutting machismo

Elliot feels at his happiest writing male characters and the creation of David (who he plays himself) and his younger brother Teddy (Nathan Dunn), really sings with the bite of fraternal relationships. Dunn has Teddy’s strutting machismo excellently, but neither the writing nor the performance are clear enough about how much younger he is – a crucial turn for a particular strand of the comedy.

Kate Foley-Scott, Cassie Gaughan and Rosie Milne. Photo: Monika Nizio

Kate Foley-Scott, Cassie Gaughan and Rosie Milne. Photo: Monika Nizio

Their early scenes with Lara Wauchope as their tightly controlling cousin Claire quickly bring the whole idea of the play into focus. Wauchope needs to dig a bit deeper into her character – she doesn’t quite achieve the sense of simmering emotion she might – but all the banter and shorthand of family relationships is well conceived.

The tensions ratchet up with the arrival of the other cousins. Rosie Milne is excellent as uptight PE student Dana, who has brought her “best” friend Rachel (Kate Foley-Scott) along for support.

Their relationship is as clear to the audience as it is obviously known to the cousins – naive Teddy apart. He immediately starts hitting on Rachel and is drawn into the lie that he is a regular at CC’s (that’s gay club CC Blooms) where he claims “everyone knows my name”. Which in turn allows everyone to jump – or to pretend to jump – to the obvious conclusion over his own sexuality. A conclusion over which he doth protest much – perhaps, too much (both because it might be true, but in a literal sense of the joke wearing a little thin).

interesting to watch

Foley-Scott as Rachel, the outsider, is particularly interesting to watch, as she very skilfully brings out the conflicts of her character: a girlfriend who is so supportive of her partner that she is prepared to be denied in public, but who is also there to protect her.

Lara Wauchope and Nathan Dunn. Photo: Monika Nizio

Lara Wauchope and Nathan Dunn. Photo: Monika Nizio

The comedy is more upfront for James Boal and Cassie Gaughan. He’s the hippy cousin Evan, who has travelled much and will talk about it at tedious length. She is his long-term significant other Francis – who calls herself Fanny in a political statement to reclaim the word and celebrate her own sex.

Elliot’s writing here just tries that bit too hard – there’s a level of tension between Fanny and Claire (who refuses to call her Fanny) which doesn’t quite work: you can see what he is going for but it doesn’t rise naturally enough out of the ebb and flow.

Indeed, the best laughs come in the throwaway lines which both flesh out character and are incredibly funny. There is not a lot for Christie Russell-Brown to play with, as Evan’s younger sister Julie who is rather too glamorous to be there, but she delivers her most acid one-liners with a glorious disdain that opens up some interesting depths to the character.

The sudden appearance of Claire’s big brother, Ronnie, a drug-soaked alcoholic helps bring the relationships the cousins had with their grandmother into relief. Unfortunately, there is not enough time or space for Jonathan Durie to establish quite how out-of-it he is, and it all feels a little told and not shown.

This is a great little show, which certainly shows the company and cast working to their ability. Moreover, it is satisfying to see this kind work being done this skillfully and a company beginning to find its groove.

For all that For the Love of Cousins relies overmuch on the shorthand of cliché and doesn’t quite find a place to go, there is plenty to work with and much humour to be had in a tight piece of observational theatre.

Running time one hour (no interval)
Wee Red Bar, Art College, Lauriston Place, EH3 9DF
Tuesday 8 to Friday 11 March 2016
Evenings: 7.30pm.
Tickets (returns only) and details:

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