Ne’er the Twain

Aug 10 2016 | By More

★★★★☆    Funny

Saughtonhall United Reformed Church (Venue 273) Aug 8-13 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

Bold, fast-paced and verging on the hysterical at times, Saughtonhall Drama Group’s Ne’er The Twain is a tremendously enjoyable production.

Set soon after World War One, Alan Cochrane’s play has as its background the amalgamation of Leith and Edinburgh. Social climbing Mr and Mrs Burns live just inside Edinburgh and shop at St Cuthbert’s; the McIvors are confirmed Leithers (even if their lavvy and half the lobby are in Edinburgh) and patronise the Leith Provident. Misunderstandings and arguments between the couples abound, often relating to their respective children’s engagement, leading to moments of farcical, physical comedy.

Murray Petrie and Scott Kerr in Ne'er the Twain. Photo Sarah Howley

Murray Petrie and Scott Kerr in Ne’er the Twain. Photo Sarah Howley

At the very least, this is a fabulously well constructed piece of theatre, offering great opportunities for humour. These are taken here with great success. Jim Pryde’s sturdy, realistic set is well utilised by Morag Simpson’s pacy, intelligent direction and a cast on top form.

Scott Kerr’s cartoonish Bob McIvor, complete with Paw Broon moustache, is a real treat, a blustering and complaining with great timing. Betty Meston’s Jean McIvor is a similarly effective portrayal – broad without sacrificing the audience’s sympathy.

Perhaps the Burnses provide too great a contrast. Considerably more underplayed, they seem to come not just from a different burgh but from a different play altogether. Colin Mitchell (Hugh Burns) and Chris Mitchell (Meg Burns) both turn in accomplished performances, however.

Louise Starkey and Simon Petrie play Carol McIvor and Robin Burns, the young lovers caught up in the madness their parents create. As comparatively straight roles, these are potentially difficult, but discharged with aplomb.

enjoyably outré

No such difficulties with the remaining parts, which are out-and-out comedy roles. Nellie McIvor is played with evident relish by Ishbel Shand as an enjoyably outré figure, while Murray Petrie’s unfortunate assistant minister Mr Murchison is a satisfyingly bizarre creation. John Webster’s performance as the feckless bookie’s runner Wullie Lomax, Jean’s cousin and lodger, is pitch-perfect. His hangdog expression of wounded pride and perfectly timed interjections are a joy to behold.

Even with a setting nearly a century ago, there is enough that is still recognisable to cause many of the laughs to be from recognisable places, situations or language. While familiarity with Edinburgh is a slight advantage in this regard, there is more than enough humour here, both verbal and physical, that would be understood by anyone.

While it does not have the strain of Scottish magic realism that distinguishes its sequel Hatches, Matches and Dispatches, there is nevertheless something strange under the surface of this play. This full-on, primary-coloured production does not really do justice to this extra dimension, but when the result is as funny as this it does not matter at all.

Running time: 2 hours 15 minutes including one 20 minute interval and one 5 minute interval
Saughtonhall United Reformed Church (Venue 273), 87 Saughtonhall Drive, EH12 5TR
Monday 8 – Saturday 13 Aug 2016
Daily at 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat 2.30 pm
Book tickets on the EdFringe website:
Company website:

Colin Mitchell, Chris Mitchell, Murray Petrie, Betty Meston, Scott Kerr, Louise Starkey, Simon Petrie and Ishbel Shand in Ne'er the Twain. at Saughtonhall. Photo Sarah Howley

Colin Mitchell, Chris Mitchell, Murray Petrie, Betty Meston, Scott Kerr, Louise Starkey, Simon Petrie and Ishbel Shand in Ne’er the Twain. at Saughtonhall. Photo Sarah Howley


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