They Make These Noises (3 stars)

They Make These Noises

Arches, Glasgow, until Fri 16 Nov


The noises in question emanate from the rumbling stomachs of the old boys living in a godforsaken hostel where the theft of a splash of milk can lead to a bloody stabbing. This is where Brian Ferguson’s young man finds himself after losing his dead-end job as a dish-washer. With nothing more than a defunct radio for company and an authoritarian landlady on the prowl, he is forced to make soup in his electric kettle and to risk electrocution every time he turns on the fire.

Bleak enough for you? Well, the story gets worse, except in the hands of novelist-cum-playwright James Kelman, it’s a breezy observational comedy. Ferguson’s unnamed character has brought a pretty young nurse back to his bedsit and, far from being embarrassed by his environment, he accepts his lot in a spirit of naïve fascination. He is a man so disempowered that the easiest way to survive is to view everything with a sense of helpless awe.

His attitude is enough to delight us and Danielle Stewart’s nurse, a somewhat under-written part in this entertaining production by David McKay, the second in the Arches’ mini-season of undiscovered Kelman plays. As in the first play, Herbal Remedies, the author paints a portrait of people surviving on the lowest rung of the social ladder, getting by because getting by is all they can do, neither requiring nor expecting anyone’s sympathy. Laughter is about the only option left.

This, however, is a slighter piece of work, breezily entertaining but more of a first act than a fully developed drama. If the Arches season makes the prospect of such a Kelman play more likely, then all the better.

James Kelman Season: They Make These Noises

  • 3 stars

Arches Theatre Company premiere two new plays by Glasgow's only Booker prize winner.

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