Playwrights Douglas Maxwell, D.C. Jackson and Johnny McKnight share more than a skill for a well-observed comic line. As their respective oeuvres attest, all three are Ayrshiremen.
One has often wondered whether there’s something in the water in the region that gave us such poets as Robert Burns and Bill Shankly. Now, in the shape of the trio’s collaborative project Smalltown, comes confirmation of the powerful qualities of Ayrshire’s H2O.
If one was asked what might connect the employment crisis of a South Ayrshire tourism worker, a post-coital teenage catastrophe and a zombie in a freezer, one would be unlikely to conclude that the common factor must be tainted aqua (branded “Rabbie Juice”) drawn from an Ayrshire spring which is believed to rise (and I use that word advisedly) in the environs of Burns’s first sexual tryst. Yet, it is that ludicrously arbitrary concept (appropriately enough, presented by Random Accomplice theatre company) which forms the spurious pretext (sorry, brilliant basis) for this often hilarious and uproarious evening of stage comedy.
The powers of the three writers are diverse: Maxwell is the most poetic of the three; Jackson (and this, if you’ll forgive another double-entendre, is against some pretty stiff competition) is the rudest (and, in his visual imagination, the most Shakespearean); while McKnight has the greatest taste for the absurd. It makes for a pleasingly varied programme – ranging from Julie Brown’s fabulous, dominatrix-like tourism supremo I.A. Callahan and Richard Conlon, superb as her frantic, Troon-hating underling (Maxwell’s Girvan); to Jonathan Holt and Sally Reid’s no-holds-barred performances as working-class kids transformed by their first taste of sex (Jackson’s Girvan); and Anita Vettesse and Brown as a pair of panicking catering workers trying to recover a mobile phone from Reid’s undead trainee (McKnight’s Ardrossan).
The playlets of Smalltown are unlikely to go down as great works of Scottish literature; but I doubt they have any pretensions to do so. However, they will be long remembered as a right rollicking night out.
Smalltown was reviewed at the Tron, Glasgow (run ended); touring Scotland until March 26. For further information visit: www.randomaccomplice.com
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on February 20, 2011
© Mark Brown