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Edinburgh Fringe 2009


Practical Magic Theatre Company

Venue: Sweet ECA


Low Down

 The story, in case you’ve somehow missed the hype that surrounds both the film and the book, is of Mark Renton, who has rejected the normalities of life: getting a job, getting married and having a family, in favour of a long and turbulent relationship with heroin. This adaption focuses on Renton’s addiction and his miss-match of friends, on how drugs can both destroy lives and also how tough times can, heart-warmingly, bring people together.


 The play starts with full vigour: full frontal nudity and grotesque scatological imagery within about two minutes. Renton is immediately captivating, realistic and totally enthralling to watch. The script demands that the character talks to the audience throughout: something that often disturbs the natural flow, or the realism within the play. It has the potential to feel clunky. This is certainly not the case here: movement between inter-character dialogue and audience participation is seamless. A true star in the making, Renton is one of the highlights of the show and is a joy to watch throughout.

Also, other main roles are portrayed brilliantly. Alison, the biggest female role has brilliant comic timing and a disturbingly, heartbreaking brutality. Bigby, possibly the least likable character is the history of modern writing, is equally impressive.

There are, however, big problems with the production’s sound and lighting. The sound is too loud throughout and key character monologues are lost. Control levels of the sounds are also, evidently, very fragile and highly temperamental: the audience is often blasted with a piece of music, for it to then immediately disappear. The equipment also cracks and rings all the way through, which is highly distracting and irritating, especially in poignant or haunting scenes. There are, finally, minor problems with spotlighting and dimming, also. These things are all easily reversible and, when executed well, would elevate the show into the leagues of extraordinary.

The set is interesting and well thought out: minor changes throughout create a totally different atmosphere and, obviously, setting. However, and these are only slight faults, the toilet, the infamous toilet – I’ll say no more, for those who are not familiar with the script – is a little disappointing, it could be far far worse, used more effectively and developed.

Shocking, disturbing, heartbreaking and truly emotive, the script is known and loved by the majority and is a true cult classic: a memento of our time. The actors in this production are superb and, on the whole, the direction is thoughtful, interesting and establishes itself away from the film as much as possible which should certainly be accredited.  It could be outstanding and has a lot of potential: there are just some creases that need to be ironed out. Worth seeing.


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