Perfect Days

May 19 2023 | By More

★★☆☆☆     Antenatal

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 17 – Sat 20 May 2023
Review by Thom Dibdin

A quarter of a century on from the premiere of Liz Lochhead’s witty, fast-paced comedy Perfect Days, Leitheatre find that the truths which underpin the laughs still hold, but struggle somewhat to explore them.

Linda Thomson is in the hot seat, taking on the role of celebrity hairdresser Barbs Marshall, which was written by Lochhead for her pal Siobhan Redmond and which she premiered at the Traverse in the Edinburgh Fringe of 1998 to great critical and popular acclaim. It’s a sharp and pointed role; a woman who has achieved much and now wants a child before her biological clock runs out.

Jennie Davidson and Linda Thomson. Pic: Leitheatre

Barbs is not just a gallus role for any actor to take on, but a marathon one too. From the opening scene where she is cutting the hair of her best pal from school Alice (Jennie Davidson), chatting away 19 to the dozen, hardly a scene goes by where she is not the focus of attention and on stage throughout.

But she needs on-point support from the five other actors of the ensemble. Even if Alice is reduced to the odd interjection in that opening scene, she still needs more reaction to Barbs than Davidson finds, although when Alice has more to say, Davidson rises into the role.

If this wants for a poke up the bum during its opening scene, Hilary Spiers as Sadie, Barbs’ tittle tattle mother, provides it with the performance of the production. When she is on stage you begin to get a flavour of the pace and understanding of the writing, the love-hate-infuriation relationship between daughter and mother.

moderately successful

The male supporting role provide plenty of juice for their actors. Brendan, the gay hairdresser from Barbs’ salon – Razor City – who is very much her confidante; Davie, Barbs’ ex-husband who has fallen away in her shadow; and Grant, the mysterious young man spied with Alice on a midweek lunch date.

All three are given moderately successful tellings. James Logan could afford to enjoy Brendan’s campness a lot more than he does, which would bring out a deal of the comedy in the piece. Bille Renfrew’s is more solid and true to Davie’s not quite getting anything right about what is going on.

A rehearsal picture of Leitheatre's 2023 production of Perfect Days.

Jennie Davidson (Alice), James Logan (Brendan), Linda Thomson (Barbs), Charlie Robertson (Grant) and Billy Renfrew (Davie) in rehearsal. Pic Marion Donohoe.

Charlie Robertson is the most entertaining of the three, milking the physical comedy when called upon to act his pants off. Although the tricky portrayal of a gauche younger man with an older woman doesn’t always ring as true as it might, but is certainly close to the mark.

It all feels a bit laboured. For it to fly as it could, director Fiona Begg needs to get snappier performances all round, but particularly from Thomson, who feels a few run-throughs short of an opening night. She is not always helped as she should be though: there are too many times when the ensemble are standing around listening without reacting in any way to her lines.

This is a script which has so much depth to it, which the company find but do not explore as they might: of different kinds of love between a woman and her family; of the urge to procreate; of men’s failings. There also more laughs to be had than on the obvious laugh-lines – and even they are not always hit as they might be.


Stephen Hajducki’s ultra-minimalist set works well, paring the posh flat back to wooden uprights. However there are elements of the wardrobe which need a more authentic touch. Particularly for Barbs, who just does not look the part of a daytime TV celebrity with her own make-over show and who is joint owner of a successful and ultra trendy Glasgow hair salon in the late 1990s.

Revivals of Perfect Days are always a blast, thanks to Liz Lochhead’s writing, and there is plenty to like in Leitheatre’s production which provides an entertaining evening of theatre that can only get better over the run.

Running time: Two hours and 40 minutes (including one interval)
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR.
Wednesday 17 – Saturday 20 May 2023
Wed – Fri: 7.30pm; Sat Mat: 2.30pm only.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Hilary Spiers and Linda Thomson in rehearsal. Pic: Marion Donohoe.


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  1. Kim says:

    Hi there, I seen the show as well and I’m not sure why you felt the need to make those remarks about the character Brendan?. I thought Brendan was a great asset to the overall stage presence, he carried himself well and his dialogue came through brilliantly and I thought him and Barbs bounced off each other exceptionally well. I really felt the friendship came through for me and they really protrayed a good friendship and it came across like they’d known each other for years. I’m not sure if we were watching the same show?…as I found it really comical where it needed to be and the audience embraced that comedy. I think if Brendan had been “too camp” as you mentioned it would have stole Barbs stage presence as she is the main lead and focal point in this play.