The Aliens

Sep 19 2021 | By More

★★★★☆  Wartime drama

Leith Dockers Club: Sun 19 Sept 2021
Review by Tom Ralphs

Set in Leith during World War 2, The Aliens is a short slice of life that zooms in on soldiers returning from Dunkirk – just as Mussolini announces that Italy is joining forces with Germany and entering to the war.

The production by Citadel Arts Group is adapted by Laure Paterson from William Haddow’s novel Leithers One Family and directed by Adam Tomkins. In just twenty minutes it delivers a poignant message that many other plays will take longer to make and do so less successfully.

Mairi Jayne Paterson and Alison McFarlane. Pic: Sigrid Nielson.

Lizzie Preston (Alison McFarlane) is hanging out with her best friend Gina Ricci (Mairi Jayne Paterson) – the daughter of Italian parents who own a popular ice cream parlour in Leith. Gina’s brother is dues back from Dunkirk where he has been fighting on the Allies side. As the two girls await his return, they pass the time by sharing their dreams of singing on stage at The Gaiety.

It’s an image of innocent childhood that you know won’t last. The news of Italy’s entry into the war makes sure of this, as Lizzie’s brother George (Anthony O’Neil) is one of a group of locals who throw a brick through the window of the ice cream parlour, wreck the shop and attack Gina’s dad.

Gina’s brother ceases to be a returning hero and instead becomes an alien, no longer welcomed by people in the country he’s been fighting for.

simplicity is its strength

The play’s simplicity is its strength. It is not overladen with messages and Paterson’s script isn’t cursed with hindsight. The action, motivations and their effect are clear and there is no need for commentary to drive the point home.

The wartime music, played by Jim Bryce, sets the scene ahead of the play and matches the mood within it, most notably when the second refrain of O Sole Mio is given an ominously darker tone than the first time it’s heard.

Alison McFarlane and Lynne McCallum. Pic: Sigrid Nielson

The cast give strong enthusiastic performances, and particular credit has to go to Still Game’s Lynne McCallum who played the mothers of both girls and was a last minute replacement for Debbie Whyte who had been forced to self isolate. Although she was using a script in places, McCallum still brought both characters to life and switched effortlessly between them.

Her addition to the cast was one of two Covid enforced changes as the play moved to Leith Dockers Club from Citadel Arts Group’s normal venue, Abbeyhill Primary School, due to Covid safety regulations at the school.

Neither of these changes seem to have an adverse effect on the production and hopefully this weekend’s shows will not be the only chance audiences get to see the show.

Running time 20 minutes (no interval)
Leith For Ever, Customs House Wharf, Leith
Saturday 18 September 2021: 2.15pm.
Leith Dockers Club, Academy Street, Leith, EH6 7EE
Sunday 19 September 2021: 11am.
Run ended.

The Aliens is one of eleven audio adaptations by Citadel from William Haddow’s Leithers One Family. All are available to listen to here:

Citadel Arts Group:
Facebook: @CitadelArtsGroup
Audio dramas:

Leithers One Family is available on kindle:

The cast backstage: Lynne McCallum, Anthony O’Neil, Alison McFarlane and Mairi Jayne Paterson. Pic: Sigrid Nielson. All images take during the Saturday 18 outdoors performance during the Leith For Ever festival.


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