The anxieties and dilemmas of teenage life seems to be the theme of the moment in Scottish theatre. But it’s hard to imagine that they could be approached with such guile, deftness and warmth as in DC Jackson’s new play for Borderline and the Tron.
In it we meet Barry (Scott Hoatson), enduring the long summer holidays, and awaiting his Higher results with trepidation, mainly on the edifice of the title, which is situated in a park in leafy Stewarton. His fears, though, are banished by Michelle (Kirstin McLean) who makes all the running in a tentative romance. Meanwhile, his mate Rab (Finn den Hertog) is infatuated with the local shopkeeper’s daughter, but, lacking the courage to approach her, steals a ball of hash from Barry’s wee sister Norma (Sally Reid) in order to maintain his loutish, bad boy image. But each of their families have histories to conceal, and everyone knows that parents cause trouble.
Gregory Thompson’s production in front of Becky Minto’s simple park green set liberates all the playful sweetness of Jackson’s script, which debunks the media hype teaching us to fear kids of this age. Their experiments with sex, drugs and booze might well provoke a wince of memory in an audience, rather than the dread we associate with the BBC news. A curmudgeon might complain that a reference to teenage suicide and classism aren’t as fully explored as they might be, and that the plot twist can be spotted in the first five minutes. But all this would be missing the point: the great quality of Jackson’s writing is its sureness of tone, inspired wit and ingenious wordplay. This is a piece that never misses an opportunity to entertain: a lighter approach to the issues is its strength. A happy ending is inevitable – it even looks like Rab, the ned radge of courage, will get a girl to chav and to hold at close of play.
There are moments where one is reminded of Galton and Simpson in Jackson’s comic explorations of the idioms of Ayrshire and the sly humour of everyday, banal observation. Meanwhile, there are such splendid performances from all four members of the cast it seems invidious to pick any one out, though Reid’s irritating wee pink-clad sister with a power for malapropism (at one point she fears Barry will become anoraktic) is a special treat.