King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 7 Oct. Seen at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen
We travel through life inscribed indelibly with the past. All current experience is informed by regret, guilt, nostalgia and joyful recollection, each crowding our minds in our idle moments and subconsciously influencing our actions when we’re active. This seminal truth of personal and collective history lies at the heart of John Byrne’s adaptation of over six hours of television to two and a bit of theatre for the NTS, which amounts to a funny and at times powerfully moving night of theatre, in which every character suffers from some form of self deception, and each case relates to the past.
In it, we meet Danny (Tom Urie) brother of the recently deceased Big Jazzer, who is persuaded to join his sibling’s moribund rock band, the Majestics, for their golden jubilee tour. This sits ill with the band, but pleases Suzy (Dawn Steele) who’s had a crush on Danny since their shared college days. Under the direction of a dodgy entrepreneur manager (John Ramage) the tour goes ahead, amidst a succession of amorous catastrophes wrought by lead guitarist Vincent (Tam Dean Burn) which make victims of a young groupie (Helen Mallon) and his ‘her indoors’ . The hinterlands of the Scottish provincial touring circuit are littered with the bloody consequences.
Director Tony Cownie shows an astonishing facility with pacing, as one scene follows another and events crowd in, all producing an exhilarating zigzag from joy to despair, but never losing story. He’s helped by a breathtaking multimedia set from Neil Murray, which features a series of monochrome cartoons with a Salvador Dali edge. The performances are splendid, with Urie belting out his songs with real power and Steele in equally full voice with an alternately winsome and acidic character, while Ramage presents a master class in comic timing and diction with his shyster manager. Burn is in equally vigorous form, though the tragic status his character builds might be a little thrown away at the finale. This is a splendid, bittersweet night of entertainment that might remind us again of the kind of power a decently resourced theatre can achieve. (Steve Cramer)