Meteor Shower

Apr 20 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆    Strong performances

St Ninian’s Hall: Wed 19 – Sat 22 April 2023
Review by Thom Dibdin

Nothing is quite what it appears to be, in Steve Martin’s fractured marital comedy, Meteor Shower, being staged at St Ninian’s Hall by Edinburgh Theatre Arts until Saturday.

Yes, this is by *that* Steve Martin, the American Hollywood actor whose fingerprints are all over his 2017 script to the point where every one of the four characters could at some point or other, be channeling Martin pithy one-liners. Which is not always a good thing.

Danny Farrimond and Mags McPherson. Pic: John McLinden

The play is set in the home of Corky and Norm in the Southern Californian town of Ajai, a quintessential new age retreat in the foothills of the Topatopa mountains north of Los Angeles, on a night in August 1993 when a meteor storm is set to light up the clear mountain skies.

Mags McPherson as Corky and Danny Farrimond as Norm, quickly establish this middle-aged couple as having once teetered on the edges of marital failure, but reclaimed their marriage through the use of little rituals and buzz words.

natural rhythm

David McCallum directs with natural rhythm, giving McPherson and Farrimond the space to play it for laughs. It’s hardly their fault that many are somewhat dated, with laugh-lines about crab dips and celery well past their sell-by date. But the lovey-dovey stuff is keenly done.

Corky and Norm are readying themselves for the arrival of another couple, Laura and Gerald, who have invited themselves up from the city to witness the celestial event and who Corky has never met. Norm knows them only through playing golf with Gerald.

Edith Peers and Colin McPherson. Pic: John McLinden

Farrimond’s descriptions of the incoming couple are delight of understatement and that which is not said, with McPherson’s reactions helping give even more depth and knowing amusement as to what to expect.

When they arrive, Edith Peers’ Laura and Colin McPherson’s Gerald are double-dipped versions of Norm’s descriptions, slathered in cynicism and edged with violence. They aren’t so much the mirror image of Corky and Norm, as their antithesis.

brutal juxtapositions

Suddenly the whole thing takes off into Edward Albee territory, with brutal juxtapositions of character as Peers splendidly vamps it up to the maximum while McPherson goes well, well over the top as the alpha male not just marking out his territory, but doing so in a terrifying manner.

Which is all very well and beautifully constructed on Finlay Black’s clever split set, ably lit by Ian Cunningham, so that the garden loungers on one side of the playing area and the lounge-room bar on the other can come in and out of use as the visiting couple destabilise their host’s cosy love-nest.

Mags McPherson, Colin McPherson, Danny Farrimond and Edith Peers. Pic: John McLinden

Martin’s script shows a clever, if slightly obvious, side as he sends the couples back and forth in time – revealing more and more about who they are.

However, when he starts to use the flashbacks to re-set the whole piece as the meteors flash down, it all become a bit too pretend metaphysical without paying off in any kind of logic or particular substance. The resets feel like set-ups for the gags, with the comedy driving the plot rather than serving it.

It is perhaps a bit brutal to mark a company down for the material they have chosen, particularly given the quality of the four performances here. Steve Martin can write killer one-liners and construct great sight-gags, but his script descends into a series of sketches that is rather less than the sum of its parts.

That said, the various changes in mood and emphasis in the repeated and re-set scenes give all four performers full reign to create a variety of angles and depths to their core characters, which they seize upon with alacrity. It is a case of the actors being rather superior to their material and results in some really excellent moments and sustained scenes that make this well worth a view.

Running time: One hour and 30 minutes (including one interval).
St Ninian’s Hall, 40 Comely Bank, EH4 1AG
Wed 19 – Sat 22 April 2023.
Evenings: 7.30pm, Sat Mat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

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Edith Peers, Colin McPherson, Mags McPherson and Danny Farrimond. Pic: John McLinden


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