Review – Bite The Bullet

Aug 22 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Hilarious and tuneful

Sandy Nelson and Keith Warwick. © Bite The Bullet Productions

Sandy Nelson and Keith Warwick. © Bite The Bullet Productions

The Assembly Rooms (Venue 20)
Fri 16 – Sun 25 Aug 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

Bite The Bullet is another successful transfer to the Assembly Rooms from Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and a Pint.  Described as a ‘one-act rock ‘n’ roll comedy with songs’, it is all of these things and more besides.

The Telltales, ‘Scotland’s agit-folk-noir duo’, have been offered the chance to reform for a Lifetime Achievement award ceremony in Japan, where their big hit, the Bite The Bullet of the title, reached Number One 21 years previously. Over the course of a series of flashbacks, they form, achieve success, split up and meet to consider the reunion two older and sadder if not necessarily wiser men.

The two performers portraying the duo, Sandy Nelson and Keith Warwick, also wrote the script, with Warwick providing the songs. If there is nothing that is new in the story, it is told with considerable verve and élan. There is a fizzing comic energy on display that, added to a tangible chemistry between the pair and a real relish for words, leads to some huge laughs.

It is the feeling of watching an accomplished double act which really makes the play come alive. We instantly believe that these two are old friends who have shared so much together. Keith Warwick (the more down-to-earth frontman Les) is adept at portraying both the glaikit teenager struck dumb by his friend’s mother and the wired rock star who has ‘crossed the line – and then snorted it’.

Sandy Nelson (politically committed songwriter Carl) is an excellent foil, trying to appeal cool and failing.  The scenes where the pair of them are riffing on potential band names or arguing about the relative merits of ‘ba’ and ‘la’ may not be earth-shatteringly original, but they are hugely funny, with the humour all the more effective for arising naturally out of the characters and being rooted in shared cultural references.

A masterclass in how to use sweary words effectively

Being the third actor in this production could be extremely difficult as you are essentially interrupting the double act, but Kirstin McLean, who plays four roles, weaves in and out of the action to great effect, particularly in the role of the disaffected radio DJ.

The poster promises ‘sweary words’, and this could be a masterclass in how to use them effectively. Like every other word in the script, they are used to maximum effect by all three performers, and delivered with brio. Alison Peebles’ direction also helps maintain the pace and energy throughout.

The songs also add hugely to the enjoyment. While perhaps not quite strong enough to go platinum in Japan, they would certainly have had a fighting chance of achieving the coveted Number 13 spot that was the summit of The Telltales’ domestic achievements.

In among the laughs, there are some more serious points being made about ageing, mortality and life choices, but they are perhaps not wholly sustained. Given more time to stretch out, they may ring truer. The goodwill generated earlier is more than enough to carry all along, however, and the ending is extremely poignant in the light of what has already been seen.

Funny, energetic and ultimately life-affirming, Bite The Bullet is a hugely entertaining piece that deserves to be seen.

Running time 1 hour
Run ends Sun 25 August 2012
Daily 2.45 pm
Venue 20, The Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, EH2 2LR
Tickets from

Bite The Bullet on Tour

6 Sept 2013 Greenock
The Beacon
01475 723723 Book online
8-9 Sept 2013 Inverness
Eden Court Theatre
01463 234 234 Book online


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