Passing Places

Apr 27 2022 | By More

★★★★☆   Charming

St Ninian’s Hall: Tue 26 – Sat 30 April 2022
Review by Hugh Simpson

After too long away, Edinburgh Theatre Arts are back in Stockbridge with their take on Passing Places, exhibiting a vibrant spirit and huge delight.

Stephen Greenhorn’s 1997 ‘road movie for the stage’ has become such a fixture of Scottish theatre that it even crops up in the school drama syllabus.

Matthew Joerrett and Ruairidh Hastie. Pic John McLinden

The picaresque journey of Alex and Brian, two young men from Motherwell who end up on a journey to Thurso in a broken-down Lada complete with stolen surfboard, is told through a variety of locations and encounters. Meanwhile, Alex’s erstwhile employer, sports shop owner and small-time hood Binks, is hot on (and off) their trail.

The situations and preoccupations in the play seem hardly to have dated in the intervening quarter-century. It remains a frothily funny, disarmingly thought-provoking work.

The constant change of scene required by the ‘road movie’ format is handled with considerable grace and slickness. The scene changes do begin to pall a little, but ample compensation comes from the wit the minimal scenery constantly displays. Huge congratulations are due to Finlay Black for such excellent use of resources.

sheer joy

At any rate, the flow of the narrative is never seriously interrupted. This, like so much else of Colin McPherson’s direction, and the performances, reflects the sheer joy of being back on stage in front of a real audience after so long. There is an energy about the whole production that transmits itself readily; the two hours-plus the play takes is over in what seems like the blink of an eye.

Derek Marshall, Matthew Joerrett, Ruairidh Hastie and Caitlin Christmas. Pic John McLinden

Ruairidh Hastie’s sarcastic Alex and Matthew Jeorrett’s glaikit Brian anchor the story with spark and humanity. They convince utterly as a pair of long-acquainted, long-suffering friends.

Caitlin Christmas as Mirren, the free-ish spirit who becomes the third wheel on their journey, also has a thoroughly believable and likeable air.

appropriate otherworldliness

Kirsty Doull, Stuart Mitchell and Felix McLaughlin excel as the variety of characters encountered, with Mitchell particularly relishing the opportunity to play such a bizarre range.

Derek Marshall’s beach-bum surfboard shaper has an appropriate otherworldliness, while Danny Farrimond’s gangster Binks treads a fine line between comedy and full-blown psychosis with aplomb.

Caitlin Christmas (hidden) and Kirsty Doull. Front: Matthew Jeorrett, Ruairidh Hastie and Felix McLaughlin. Pic John McLinden

Ian Cunningham’s lighting design and Colin McPherson’s sound design are both operated efficiently by Gordon Hughes; the musical interludes are particularly well chosen and help to smooth over those frequent scene changes.

At times there is a diffidence in the central performances which – while it is a useful contrast to the more grotesque cameos – does mean there is an occasional lack of sparkle. Some of the humour, meanwhile, could be attacked with a little more conviction.

The occasionally salty language, however, is tackled with absolute believability in what is a production of considerable verve and genuine charm.

Running time 2 hours 25 minutes including one interval
St Ninian’s Hall, 40 Comely Bank, EH4 1AG
Tuesday 26 – Saturday 30 April 2022
Evenings at 7.30 pm; Matinee Sat 2.30 pm
Information and tickets: Book here.

Stuart Mitchell. Pic John McLinden

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