Review – Ne’er the Twain

Aug 9 2012 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩   Ever-bubbling

St Peter’s, Lutton Place (Venue 17): Ends 18 Aug 2012
Review by Thom Dibdin

Couthie comedy is given full and adequate reign in the Edinburgh People’s Theatre fast-moving production of Ne’er The Twain – set in a tenement flat on the Leith-Edinburgh border in October 1919.

The McIvors are pure Leithers, although their cludgie just happens to be across the border in Edinburgh. And they are not very happy with the rumours that Edinburgh and Leith are to be forced to join together. Even worse, that the decision will come down to the Westminster parliament.

The McIvors round the tea table. Photo: Robert Fuller

This hasn’t stopped young Carol McIvor (Sammy Tait) from falling for the son of her parent’s best pals, Robin Burns (Matthew Sielewicz-Stanhope). Whose family lives just up Leith Walk, but on the other side of the Boundary Bar – and thus technically in Edinburgh.

Using the historical facts as his framework, writer Alan Cochrane toys with slapstick and farce as the two families fall in and out of friendship. Director John Lyon ensures that it all moves swiftly along, with few of the sort of longeurs which can destroy the humour. And those who recognise the setting but not the intricacies of the plot will be relieved to hear that this is the play to which Cochrane’s Hatches, Matches and Dispatches is a sequel.

Mandy Black as the plain-talking Jean McIvor and Irene Beaver as the highfalutin’ Meg Burns get plenty of mileage out of the two mothers. The chat of the rival co-operative societies – St Cuthberts up the town and the Leith provie down Leith Walk – and their competing dividends and prices is sharp and pointed.

For the two dads their own football rivalries are just the start of it. Ronnie Millar is particularly fulsome as Bob McIvor – proud to work down the docks. Gordon Braidwood is having none of that for his lad, who he wants to follow in his own footsteps, clerking for a legal firm up the town.

sleekit auntie

While the banter and rivalries provide an ever-bubbling comic backdrop, the big comic set piece comes from Lyzzie Dell as aunt Nellie McIvor and Iain Fraser as the McIvor’s lodger, Wullie Lomax.

Dell is spot-on in her creation of the somewhat sleekit auntie, always ready to let herself into the flat and help herself to a piece and cup of tea. You can quite see her talking herself up as a founding member of the Newhaven Fishwives choir – when in truth she had been bounced out after only a few rehearsals for arriving drunk.

Fraser is easily her equal on the comedy front. Always putting his foot in it with an unwelcome revelation that is bound to stir the pot even more. And when Meg invites her song-collecting church minister to listen to Auntie Nellie’s original versions of the fishwives songs, he is on hand to add an extra layer of comedy.

Surprisingly for a first in a series, Ne’er the Twain doesn’t quite replicate the bounce and swagger of the sequel. But this strong, reasonably slick production makes the most of it and finds the comedy with ease.

Run ends Sat 18.
Daily (not Sun/Mon or Sat 18), 7.30; Matinees Sat 11, 18, 2.30pm.
EPT Website:

Edinburgh People's Theatre Fringe 2012 production of Ne'er the Twain

Iain Fraser (Wullie Lomax), Ronnie Millar (Bob McIvor), Mandy Black (Jean McIvor), Sammy Tait (Carol McIvor), Matthew Sielewicz-Stanhope (Robin Burns), Irene Beaver (Meg Burns), Gordon Braidwood (Hugh Burns), Lyzzie Dell (Nellie McIvor), John Somerville (Mr Murchison). Photo © Robert Fuller









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