South Bend

Aug 2 2018 | By More

★★★★☆   Comic Journey

Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64): Wed 1–Mon 27Aug2018
Review by Hugh Simpson

South Bend at Gilded Balloon at the Museum is a sharp, bittersweet comedy that is smart enough to know when to be clever and when to be stupid.

Martin McCormick’s play, produced by Grid Iron in association with Platform, is an apparently autobiographical story of misadventures in the American Midwest following a woman he fell in love with as an exchange student in California.

Jess Chanlieu and Martin McCormick in South Bend, credit Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Jess Chanlieu and Martin McCormick. Pic: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

While there is an attempt at recreating a ‘road movie’ feel on stage, with Jess Chanliau excelling at performing every character except McCormick (who plays himself), this is not really the focus of the play.

There are also ruminations on fact and fiction, truth and reality, but these are not really the point of the exercise either.

Instead, McCormick is dissecting our impressions of America as much as the reality of the country – how childhood infatuations with US culture can inspire a love of the States that will struggle to survive on exposure to the real thing.

Facets of Scottishness are being explored too, not least thanks to the cynical, downbeat voice of conscience provided by David A. Pollock, whose music and live sound effects are also wonderfully expressive and entertaining.

conventional theatrical setting

Claire Halleran’s set is simple but effective, while Ben Harrison’s direction is notably fluid. It may be a surprise to see Grid Iron in such a conventional theatrical setting, but it all works fine.

Martin McCormick and Jess Chanlieu in South Bend, credit Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Martin McCormick and Jess Chanlieu. Pic Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

There are certainly criticisms that can be levelled at the script – it relies a little too much on nostalgia of the ‘remember this TV show?’ type, and a couple of the remarks about global politics that are neither smart nor funny enough. It is all very well trading in stereotypes but there needs to be a point to it.

What redeems the show is that McCormick does not spare himself. In many ways, he can be seen as the villain in his own story, which is one of the things that makes this as intriguing as it is amusing.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Auditorium, Gilded Balloon at the Museum (Venue 64), National Museum, Lothian St, EH1 1HB
Wednesday 1 – Monday 27 August 2018
Daily at 3.00 pm (not Tuesdays).
Book tickets on the Fringe website:
Grid Iron website:
Facebook: @gridirontheatre
Twitter: @gridirontheatre

South Bend then tours to:
31 Aug & 1 Sept: Byre Theatre, St Andrews;
4 Sept: Paisley Arts Centre;
7 & 8 Sept:  Eden Court Theatre, Inverness;
11 & 12 Sept: Lemon Tree, Aberdeen;
14 & 15 Sept: Cumbernauld Theatre;
19 – 22 Sept: Tron Theatre.

Foley artist David A Pollock in South Bend, credit Tommy Ga-Ken Wan (5)

David A Pollock. Pic Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

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  1. Reviews 2018 | Gilded Balloon | Aug 3 2018