Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Fri 26-Sat 27 Sep
Following its 32-week sell-out nationwide tour of Abigail’s Party, London Classic Theatre returns to Musselburgh with Charlotte Jones’ award-winning Humble Boy. Artistic director Michael Cabot has mixed memories of his last visit to Scotland: ‘Our Laurence collapsed on stage during the heart attack scene in Abigail’s Party and there were lots of newspaper headlines about it – our next performance sold out two hours afterwards. We’re hoping for a more low-key visit this time.’
The ghost of Abigail’s Party’s success clearly haunts the director. He freely admits that Humble Boy – which debuted at the National Theatre in 2001 to wide critical acclaim – was chosen largely to attract the same sort of audience. Like Mike Leigh’s classic, the play focuses on a dysfunctional family and comically dissects the relationships between them, as 35-year old Felix Humble returns home to grieve his father’s death and console his overbearing mother.
But this new tour isn’t just about commercial success; Cabot is clearly a passionate director, enthusiastic about his cast and Jones’ script. ‘They’re quite extreme characters – the audience will watch and identify, not necessarily with the people, but with the situations they find themselves in because they’re just classic family dilemmas.’
And though Humble Boy’s original cast included actors of the standing of Simon Russell Beale and Diana Rigg, Cabot is unfazed by the large boots his production has to fill: ‘You just have to clear your mind and go back to the work on the page. If we can just get the audience to really engage with it, that would make me really happy.’