Aug 9 2023 | By More

★★★☆☆    Toxic apocalypse

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sat 5 – Fri 25 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a fierce energy to Strays from Broken Bottle and New Celts at theSpace on the Mile that compensates for minor problems in the narrative.

Eleanor McMahon’s play is set in a basement where four young men are holed up some time after worldwide riots have turned out to be the work of the undead. The characters’ equilibrium, already sorely tested, is further endangered when in turns out someone has been raiding their food supply.

Jordan Monks, Dylan Baxendale, Aidan Curley and Euan Reid in Strays. Pic: Iain Davie

Around nine-tenths of the fun of witnessing zombie apocalypses is the zombies themselves. With it becoming immediately clear we are not going to see many, the play will have to work very hard to make up for it.

It certainly does its best, although once the premise is carefully set up with clever use of news broadcasts, logic then proceeds to go out the window regarding the passage of time and the characters’ choices about where they are and what they are doing.

Many plays billed as ‘dark comedies’ end up being neither of those things, but there is both darkness and comedy here. There is an earthy compulsion to the dialogue – it is all too believable that young men in such a situation would fall back so completely on cruelty, name-calling, and ‘banter’ of the ‘your mum’ variety. And spending so much time necking lager boosted with rubbing alcohol when they and should be checking their anti-zombie alarms or fixing the door to their food store.

scabrous energy

There is a scabrous energy to Euan Reid’s self-elected leader Jamie, although his anger’s proximity to full-blown Hulk status does make him difficult to warm to. There is more vulnerability to Aidan Curley as his brother Danny; Curley portrays the character’s inner conflict very cleverly.

Jordan Monks is good at showing how Alistair, who at first seems relatively intelligent and well-balanced, is perhaps the most damaged character of all, nursing long-held grievances and a misogyny all the more terrifying for being hidden. Logan, the most rounded and sympathetic character, is comparatively underplayed by Dylan Baxendale in a way that means his role as audience identification figure works very well.

Dylan Baxendale, Aidan Curley Jordan Monks and Euan Reid in Strays. Pic: Iain Davie.

Andrew Nimmo’s direction is confident and fluid, making light of the constant and rather artificial requirement for characters to leave the stage in order for various different pairings to have conversations. Although the staging is effective, the play could do with cutting slightly to make a tauter, more compelling piece.

Adam Robertson and Laura Doppell’s technical work impresses, while Jenny MacDougall’s praiseworthy involvement goes well beyond the role of stage manager.

It is obviously pointless to complain about lack of realism in a play about the zombie apocalypse. It would also be unfair, as there is much here that is very believable; just as the classic Romero zombies were metaphors for consumerism, so the metaphors here concern men’s fears of vulnerability and intimacy, and the toxic effect this produces.

Running time: One hour and 10 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Saturday 5 – Friday 25 August 2023 (odd dates only)
Odd dates only at 3.40 pm
Tickets and details: Book here,

Broken Bottle Theatre links

Facebook: @brokenbottletheatre
Instagram: @brokenbottletheatre
Twitter: @Broken_Bottle4



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  1. Nicky McLaughlin says:

    Powerful play exploring issues around masculinity and men’s fears and identity with some great dark humour . Great performance from Dylan Baxendale as Logan and Euan Reid as the voice of unreason. Well worth a watch!