Improbable Fiction

Aug 12 2017 | By More

★★★★☆  Varieties of fun

St Ninian’s Hall (Venue 230): Mon 7– Sat 19 Aug 2017
Review by Hugh Simpson

Edinburgh Theatre Arts are not the only group presenting Alan Ayckbourn this year. While other productions may be more high-profile, it is unlikely they will be much more fun than this production of Improbable Fiction at St Ninian’s.

Originally staged in 2005, the play deals with Arnold Hassock, the chair of a group of would-be writers in different styles. Arnold finds after a meeting of Pendon Writers’ Circle that the ideas of the other members may be impinging on his own life.

A scene from Improbable Fiction. Pic David McCallum

This is certainly one of the lightest in tone of Ayckbourn’s plays this century. Although there are hints of loneliness and futility, the second act in particular is essentially a romp. As such, it needs to be played with pace, drive and timing, and director David McCallum does pretty well in all three regards.

Aside from central character Arnold – played with genial, befuddled believability by Derek Marshall – the other cast members get to play several parts in different genres. This could be the cue to go over the top, but there is admirable discipline on show. The members of the writers’ group are well drawn – particularly Mags McPherson’s Jess, a lugubrious farmer who cannot start her historical romance, and Kirsty Doull’s cackling Vivvi, who seems to churn out a detective novel a week.

Colin McPherson plays his contrasting roles with relish and conviction, while Kerry Trewern and John McLinden revel in their different genres. Lisa Moffat also displays commendable versatility and does some difficult wordless comic acting very well.

There is fun being poked here – at people who claim to be writers but are more interested in having a social group, and at the predictability of genre fiction – but it is done affectionately. That affection is certainly on show here, in a thoroughly enjoyable production.

Running time 2 hours 15 minutes including one interval
St Ninian’s Hall, 40 Comely Bank, EH4 1AG (Venue 230)
Monday 7 – Saturday 19 August 2017
Daily (not Sun 13, Thurs 17) at 7.30 pm; Saturday matinees at 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Company website:
Facebook: @edinburghtheatrearts
Twitter: @EdinTheatArts


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