Review – Small Creatures

Jun 1 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩    Highlighting deep truths

Strange Town youth Theatre  Sam Siggs' Small CreaturesScottish Storytelling Centre
Friday May 31 – Saturday 1 June
Review by J. A. Sutherland

Strange Town Young Company burst onto the stage of the Scottish Storytelling Centre this week, showing that local, grass roots theatre is more than merely green shoots.

The company showcased work by two of the Traverse 50 writers. At the beginning of the week they staged Alan Gordon’s Follow Me. On Friday night Sam Siggs’ Small Creatures provided an admirable demonstration of thriving amateur theatre.

Small Creatures is a depiction of the chaotic and crazy little thing we humans call love. In what he calls an unofficial sequel to his 2012 play Love Bites, Siggs has taken a series of vignettes about the pains and pleasures of young love and woven them together with a typically unconventional concept: Darwinian aliens observing humans’ strange behaviour.

In a comical battle between the nihilistic Darwin (Amy McVicar) and optimistic Barrett (Emma McKenna) the decision to destroy this silly planet Earth is continually postponed as each delves into the messy minds of young lovers.

This was no mere exploration of adolescent angst and unrequited teenage passion. The Young Company strand of Strange Theatre is written for – and acted by – the 18-25 age-band. It doesn’t shy away from the darker stuff. Abortion, arson, jealous murder and incest were tackled in some of the heavier sketches. Elsewhere, tender issues surrounding gender, sexuality and old age were handled sensitively.

Perhaps the silliest sketch of all, Darwin’s Guide to Dancing, sees the entire cast engaged in ‘bad’ dancing of the kind that would embarrass even the dads in the audience. In the hands (or feet) of a younger cast this might have come across simply as bad dancing. It’s a strong sign of maturity when a person can laugh at themselves. By sending up dance-floor politics, these self-assured young actors throw themselves into their moves and, in doing so, highlight deeper truths about the games people play.

The cluttered stage, looking like a mixture of a mad scientist’s lab and a primary classroom preparing for a ‘project,’ gives the players plenty to do between acts, and the scene-shifts aren’t always as slick as possible. Although, in fairness, while the Storytelling Centre stage is a great playing-space it is not well-suited to complicated business.

Occasionally the pace of some of the pieces sags – and there are points where the writing would benefit from an edit or two. But director Steve Small makes an excellent job of steering a large cast through an ocean of emotions, with two of the players – Marie Yan and Thomas Henderson – acting as assistant directors.

This is more than an evening’s romp through the turbulent waters of young love. At the end of the sequence, even the aliens seemed to concede to the notion that there is hope for the human race. What is more, with such a strong showcase for the current generation of young actors, directors and writers, Strange Town proves to the pessimists that Edinburgh truly is the Festival City – and not just at the fringe.

Run ends Saturday 1 June
Tickets from:
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SR. Fri 7.30pm/Sat 2.30pm, 7.30pm

Strange Town Youth Theatre website:


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