Review – God Bless Liz Lochhead

Aug 15 2013 | By More

★★★★☆   Barbed theatrical humour

The Assembly Rooms (Venue 20): Wed 31 Jul – Sun 25 Aug 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Makar’s secure place in contemporary Scottish culture is signalled by the use of her name in the title of Martin McCardle’s God Bless Liz Lochhead. While she does not pop across from her show elsewhere in the Assembly Rooms to make an appearance, her spirit is certainly present in Fair Pley’s production.

Twenty-five years after a (fictional) tour of Lochhead’s translation of Tartuffe made the headlines for offstage chaos, three of the actors involved find themselves reunited for an underfunded and understaffed production of the same play. Not surprisingly, much of the humour here is derived from the Scottish dramatic scene and the arts in general. While it is not necessary to be familiar with these in order to be entertained, it adds greatly to the enjoyment.

Juliet Cadzow in God Bless Liz Lochhead.

Martin McCardle’s script and direction are both energetic and fast-paced. The laughs come consistently and many of the jibes hit home. Andy Gray excels as the self-obsessed Danny Devine, who intends to play Tartuffe as having multiple personality disorder, thus solving the problem of a woefully understrength cast by playing the two main male parts at the same time. He also impresses in showing us a man who is finding it difficult to come to terms with ageing, unable to find success but unable to give up.

Kate Donnelly, meanwhile, is hugely entertaining as Emma, a ball of neuroses whose insistence that she can control her temper is constantly undermined by her angry, expletive-ridden outbursts.

The right side of caricature

The characters, while broadly outlined, manage to stay on the right side of caricature. This is helped by the device of having them filmed by a TV reality show of the same title of the play. This is perhaps a little artificial and not entirely plausible, but is a smart way of introducing monologues detailing the characters’ feelings.

This works particularly well in the case of Portia, whose portrayal by Juliet Cadzow approaches perfection, combining humour, pathos, exquisite timing and an irrational dislike of Siobhan Redmond. She also provides the play’s highlight with her “all-purpose TV audition speech”. This is a wickedly funny parody of so much of the dialogue given to ‘the four ages of the Scottish television actress’ – that is, gangster’s girlfriend, gangster’s wife, gangster’s mother and gangster’s granny.

Showing its roots as part of Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie And A Pint, the whole thing ends rather abruptly, leaving some of the audience bemused that it comes in considerably shorter than its advertised seventy minute running time.

There can, however, be no faulting the energy on show, let alone the enviably high rate of genuine laughs. Whether any Scottish actors who find the only role available to them is ‘man at funeral’ will find it so funny is another matter.

Running time 50 minutes
Run ends Sun 25 August 2013
Daily (not Tues 1 or Mon 12) 2.20 pm
Venue 20, The Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street, EH2 2LR
Tickets from


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