Review – The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam

Oct 20 2012 | By More

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Trying To Haud Up Mrs Timmins -  James Young, James Mackenzie and Julie Brown as Sam, Uncle Herbie and Mrs Timmins. Photo: Eoin Carey

Trying To Haud Up Mrs Timmins – James Young, James Mackenzie and Julie Brown as Sam, Uncle Herbie and Mrs Timmins. Photo: Eoin Carey

Traverse Theatre
Review by guest reviewer: Irene Brown

Sam McTannen (James Young) shares the giant S logo with his fellow super hero, Superman, the original and ultimate model of the genre, but there the similarity ends; except in Sam’s heid. There, Sam is The Incredible See Thru Sam and his super power is invisibility. With this amazing gift, he can see, do and hear things without detection. Brilliant!

How did he get his powers? Well, he was well loved and protected by his super parents. They were his Dad, Chip the Grip (James Mackenzie), who could sort the world with a loving hold of steel and who was ‘better than Jor-El’ (Superman’s Dad), and his Mum, Sheila The Feeler (Julie Brown), who was gorgeous as well as the keeper of the White Book of Words , like ‘fanackapan’, though not great on the cooking front.

When Mr. and Mrs. McTannen are involved in a fatal car crash, Sam experiences a ‘blip’ and loses his super powers. Sam’s protective shield of parental love is shattered like Superman’s strength from a blast of Kryptonite. Suddenly, he has stepped out the shadows of invisibility. He is now vulnerable and in stark high relief with all eyes upon him. His Mum’s brother, Uncle Herbie (aka Evil Genius and Sam’s very own Lex Luthor, arch enemy of See Thru Sam) takes him to live with him.

That, to Sam, is part of the down side. On the up side, he is suddenly noticed by fellow pupil, Violet Morgana, who fills the room with her ‘hee hee’ laughter and gives him the giddy feeling of love just when he’d lost all the love he’d ever known. His real foe turns out to be Chunk, Violet’s Neanderthal boyfriend who turns very nasty when Sam comes in to his line of vision and eventually becomes his nemesis.

Exciting and innovative theatre

In this latest production from Glasgow company Random Accomplice, Lisa Sangster’s white space set design with the sliding slats that serve as steps, and with only a cube and two cuboids on stage that can become a bed or a cooker as required, is the perfect blank screen for the visual artist Jamie Macdonald’s astounding graphics.

Macdonald takes the Kenny Everett Show’s Marcel Marceau character sketch style, where graphics come to life alongside live actors, to another level. He creates the comic book effect to show Sam’s inner thoughts and to display the various scene changes, from Sam’s home; to Violet’s bedroom; to the school Home Economics (aka ‘social Kryptonite’) class and the old water tower that is the retreat of Sam and Walrus.

Supersonic yelps and screams  - James Mackenzie and James Young as Uncle Herbie & Sam in Random Accomplice's production of The Incredible Adventures of See Thru Sam. Photo: Eoin Carey

Supersonic yelps and screams – James Mackenzie and James Young as Uncle Herbie & Sam. Photo: Eoin Carey

From his creation of musical notes coming from ‘wah wah’ speakers to the speed of light travelling down Uncle Herbie’s street as Sam tries to go back in time to save his parents, this has fabulous visuals that make for exciting and innovative theatre. The show’s programme smartly mirrors the comic book theme by giving the cast and crew super hero identities.

While James Young plays Sam throughout with the suitably blank faced persona of the adolescent as he speaks with candour directly to the audience, the other parts are shared by James Mackenzie and Julie Brown who move smoothly among the other characters with no more than the addition of a pinnie, a set of oven gloves, a shirt pulled outside of trousers or a hoodie.

Mackenzie as Sam’s sidekick Walrus is the essential Perry from the TV programme Harry Enfield and Chums, his language with his peers being courser than a joiner’s sandpaper, but glacially smooth and politeness itself in the company of adults.

That private playground language used by writer Johnny McKnight has no boundaries so could shock but seemed authentic. Julie Brown is brilliant throughout from her depiction of the slinky Sheila the Feeler herself – to Violet’s (‘don’t mention the war’) mother. But her portrayal of Mrs. Timmins, the Presbyterian H.E. teacher is a terrific piece of comic character acting.

This is a Kerpow! of a show dealing with love, death, grief, loss and trying to be ‘normal’, whatever that is. Its ending is both sad and affirming as Sam finds redemption, not just in finding his perspicacious powers but in noting that it’s rude to laugh at folk as he sees his pal, Walrus, wobbling along towards him on the fateful water tower.

Run ends Saturday 20 October.

Random Accomplice website:


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