One, Two, Three, Yippee

Nov 20 2015 | By More

★★★☆☆   Brutal

Wee Red Bar: Tue 17 – Fri 20 Nov 2015
Review by Thom Dibdin

Brutal, witty and sharply observed, Jack Elliot’s new play about small town violence in Midlothian is bundled into the Wee Red Bar with no little elan by Blazing Hyena.

It’s the tale of the three Gordon siblings, whose name spells trouble in Woodburn. Their mother has died, father’s run away, leaving them to rot, and they are forced to scrape the pennies together.

James Boal and Kate Foley-Scott. Photo: Monika Nizio

James Boal and Kate Foley-Scott. Photo: Monika Nizio

The twins, Anna and Andy, are into nicking bags off old ladies and selling stolen cigarettes to their classmates. They aren’t doing too badly, either, getting just enough to both pay the gas and get blootered.

Big brother Jonny’s trying his hand at dealing. But his success is curtailed when the local drugs baroness, Tracey, finds out he’s stepping on her patch. No matter that she’s playing him for her toyboy, now her husband’s dead.

It’s all told with a real honesty under Catherine Exposito’s clear direction. A three strong chorus of gossips, supposedly waiting on the bus, thrust the audience straight into the action, while dropping in and out of a variety of subsidiary characters.

Lara Wauchope is particularly noteworthy as Dotty, a wee pugnacious scally always in the shadow of her pals. Taylor Donaldson – as flirtatious Gertrude – and Christie Russell Brown as hard-girl Sharon both ensure the whole is told with conviction.

up close and personal

Crowded round the playing area which stretches out from the Wee Red Bar’s bar, the audience are up close and personal with the players. It doesn’t always make for great sight-lines for those in the second row, but judicious use of seats of different height does help.

The Chorus (Lara Wauchope and Christie Russell Brown standing left) comment on Anna (Cassie Gaughan)'s fumblings with Gertrude (Taylor Donaldson). Photo: Monika Nizio

The Chorus (Lara Wauchope and Christie Russell Brown standing left) comment on Anna (Cassie Gaughan)’s fumblings with Gertrude (Taylor Donaldson). Photo: Monika Nizio

Cassie Gaughan as Anna and Ross Donnachie as Andy provide a strong sense of the youth of their characters. Donnachie particularly clever in his wide-lad routine, chatting up Gertrude so Anna can lift money from their bags.

Anna is written with rather less flair, but Gaughan finds some interesting depths in the girl who isn’t quite so sure either of the nature of her brother’s misdeeds or of her own sexuality.

Writer Jack Elliot brings a big wide performance to his take on the elder brother Jonny. It’s a fat, meaty part he has written here and a hugely truthful one too, but not necessarily one which is easy to pull off with any sense of realism.

It’s to Eliot’s credit both as a writer and a performer – and to Exposito’s direction – that he is so successful in the part. There’s a dark heart underlying the wry comedy of the role as Jonny hints of their father’s brutality towards their dead mother and his relationship with Tracey spirals out of control.

It’s that relationship which drives the plot. And Exposito brings a superb piece of theatre to that evolution and the ultra-violence which comes with it. It’s all beautifully underpinned by Fraser F Fulton’s live music, and a deft piece of choreography for the chorus, which finds shimmering beauty and slams it face-down into the floor.


Kirsty Findlay finds all the necessary vitriol and sense of authority in the role of Tracey. Her glamour a superb balance to Jonny’s scuzzy demeanour. Where she is less successful is in creating a character who is at least 20 years his senior – which is as much a fault of the writing, to be fair.

Kirsty Findlay as Tracey. Publicity image Blazing Hyena

Kirsty Findlay as Tracey. Publicity image Blazing Hyena

There’s no faulting James Boal as the Gordons’ father, Jimmy, when it comes to age. His eventual return home providing a strong, pivotal point to the whole play that drives it into its even more brutal and twisted second half,  in which the laughter stops being funny.

It’s a second half that doesn’t quite live up to its expectations, however. Elliot falls back too much on cliche for his characters – most problematically with Jimmy’s new girlfriend Holly (Kate Foley-Scott) who is woefully underwritten.

The plot has clever twists, but it too relies over much on the expected. Elliot – as the writer – doesn’t quite succeed in creating the necessary continuity of character to sustain the production as it might.

Exposito’s direction hints at great things, with some scenes which show a sublime understanding of the possibilities of this style of in-your-face immersive theatre. However she needs to hold her nerve and bring it to bear more widely across the whole piece.

But if there is plenty of room for the young Edinburgh-based grassroots company to improve, there is a vibrancy about what is here. And a great show which contains a bundle of proper five-star moments of theatre.

Running time one hour 40 minutes including an interval
Wee Red Bar, Lauriston Place, EH3 9DF
Tuesday 17-Friday 20 November. Daily: 7pm
Tickets and details from: Eventbrite page.

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  1. Shelagh Lockhart says:

    And Jack Elliot is from …?