The 27 Club

Aug 9 2019 | By More

★★★☆☆  Decidedly downbeat

theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39): Sat 3 – Fri 23 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

The 27 Club, by Rebel Pigeon and New Celts at theSpace on the Mile, is an exploration of loss whose frustrations are balanced by some real insight.

In Lewis Lauder’s play, painter Nick is preparing for an exhibition while dealing with past betrayals, present relationships and pressures that come as much from inside as from other people.

Jonathan Craigand Niall Nicholson. Pic: Iain Davie

The script is something of a mixed bag. Individual scenes feature beautifully constructed, resonant dialogue, and some of the exchanges – between a rowing couple, or contrasting yet supportive siblings, ring painfully true. Yet the overall structure sags under its own weight, with more and more scenes featuring two people telling each other there are things they can’t tell them about.

Perhaps billing the play as a ‘dark comedy’ does not help. There is precious little comedy here, with the exception of one character who is played for laughs. This is the bad artist Jon, who also supplies a redundant sub-plot, and is incidental to the musings about the artistic impulse which keep steering the play further away from a more profitable course.

winningly bashful

The performances are accomplished and make the most of the more effective exchanges. It is not Colin Macdonell’s fault that Jon appears to be in a different play from the other characters, and his expansive turn is very effective. Jonathan Craig’s Lawrence is winningly bashful, although the character is flat, important more for what he represents to Nick than anything in himself.

Colin Macdonell, Niall Nicholson and Tiana Milne-Wilson. Pic: Iain Davie

There is a similar problem with the female roles. They are lacking in differentiation, and exist largely as people who want to ‘save’ Nick. Tiana Milne-Wilson gives girlfriend Polly a believably wounded frustration, while Jennie-Lee Green’s artist Beatrix has an interesting combination of the steely and the kooky. Perhaps most impressive is Lucy Philip in the low-key role of sister Melissa, giving the character a grounded and rounded air.

Niall Nicholson has a virtually impossible task in portraying Nick. Not only is the character visibly crumbling, a fractured time scheme means he has to keep returning to earlier, happier times. It is to Nicholson’s great credit that he handles this very well, giving the character genuine interest and warmth, and showing that his mistreatment of others stems from his own problems.

absurdly ambitious task

To depict mental illness, the artistic process and so many different relationships is an absurdly ambitious task, and director Iain Davie does an admirable job in holding things together. The ever-present problem of representing visual art on stage is elegantly solved, and the various scenes are knitted together effectively.

There is so much that is good about the writing, and so much that rings sadly true, that it is frustrating that it is not more focused. There remains plenty to get your teeth into, however, and the company rise to the challenge with skill.

Running time 1 hour 10 minutes (no interval)
theSpace on the Mile, 80 High St, EH1 1TH (Venue 39)
Saturday 3– Friday 23August 2019
Odd dates only at 1.50 pm
Tickets and details:

Facebook: @RebelPigeonProductions
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Lucy Philip. Pic: Iain Davie


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