The Things I Don’t Say

Feb 17 2018 | By More

★★★☆☆    Intense

A flat in Bruntsfield: Tue 13 – Fri 16 Feb 2018
Review by Thom Dibdin

There is an edge of guerilla theatre to Neon Eye’s theatre debut, The Things I Don’t Say, set and performed in a Bruntsfield flat, which makes it feel special before it even starts.

And if the edginess doesn’t quite make it through to the whole of the production, the young cast still get maximum impact from its almost immersive setting, with the audience encroaching into the playing area.

The set. Pic Thom Dibdin

The location itself is not so much secret as hidden – you have to request a password before you can even think about buying a ticket. And when you do arrive at the venue, getting buzzed in to a random tenement stair, it’s like arriving at a party where you don’t know the people whose flat its in.

You are ushered into a front room with an unmade bed in the corner and just the kind of detritus you would expect of a young lad in his own pad away from home for the first time.

The Trainspotting poster and Hearts calendar on the wall give their own indicators as to who inhabits this space. But it is to the credit of designer Sarah Brown that the whole thing doesn’t actually look designed at all but is just a random found space – as it is with Abigail King’s costumes.

When he falls in through the door, Malcolm is in a bad way. It’s the end of a heavy night out drinking and doing whatever – against his better judgement, from the way he slumps around the room, washing down a paracetamol with a slug from a near-empty bottle of Whyte and Mackay’s before crashing, fully dressed, onto his unmade bed.


It’s all very naturalistic, with John Crossan giving Malcolm a perfectly believable attitude. He hardly says a word, but even if you’ve not been there, you can tell exactly how he feels.

John Crossan. Pic Neon Eye

And when, in the ensuing complete blackout, with a growl of sub-bass the door opens again and a gaggle drunken revellers wander in, you are clearly entering Malcolm’s uneasy dreams.

Here are the stragglers from his night out; Robert Aitken’s gadged-out Davy, always rolling a spliff and with a wee bag of psychedelics for those who want them (or even don’t really), and Gregor Mackay’s John – completely up himself and oozing self-confident smarm.

Most of all, there’s Denise. On her own in the room with Malcolm for a while, Lauren Waller gives her a real lustfulness and attitude; you can feel the chemistry coming off her as they knock back a bottle of whisky.

As snapshots into the subconscious of a lad alone, needing to get up for work but dissed by his student pals who are off to the Hive and are ready to heap social approbation upon him if he should wimp out, this is excellently done.

self loathing

Malcolm’s rejection of offers of help from Tom (Jack Sayers), his guilt and regret for Kirsty (Polly Burnay) who dumped him, and general self loathing are all made plain to see.

As this winds through the nightmarish dreams – and builds up through a superbly constructed and realised moment of violence – you realise that it is really just that. A reconstruction of self-loathing and regret which is resolved, as you can in a dream, by an imagined cuddle with the one who is not there, and never will be again, and who you can only conjure up in your dreams.

As director, Calum Mowatt has done that hugely difficult task of bringing out naturalism in a tight space. You don’t for a moment doubt these performances. What he hasn’t succeeded in doing, however, is bringing out more than realism from his own script.

Part of the problem is the script doesn’t take its own language and run with it. “F***!” bellows Malcolm. A lot. Without much variation. And if the “choose life” monologue on the Trainspotting poster indicates anything here, it shows how playing with the language used and being inventive with it can provide thrust and dynamism to what you have to say.

So while this is a cleverly realised touch of realism – not to mention a properly uncomfortable poke around the recesses of Malcolm’s mind – there is both more that could be done with it, and further (and possibly even more uncomfortable) recesses which could have been explored.

Running time: 40 minutes (no interval)
A flat in Bruntsfield
Tuesday 13 – Friday 16 February 2018

Neon Eye Productions’ website:
Facebook: @neoneyeproductions.
Twitter: @neoneyefilms.


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