Edinburgh Fringe 2012
A community comedy drama set in Leith in 1919, back when Edinburgh and Leith were two separate boroughs and both had fully-functioning trams.
Ne’er the Twain is a community-based comedy of manners with elements of panto and Carry On humour that involving cross dressing and misunderstandings.
It’s set in1919 when Edinburgh and Leith were still two separate boroughs, but the Government was threatening to join the two by an act of Parliament against the wishes of the vast majority of Leithers.
The action takes place in the kitchen of Nellie and Bob McIvor’s tenement flat, which is situated right across the boundary between the two boroughs; one half of the house is in Leith and the other end in Edinburgh, but they consider themselves to be true Leithers. Their friends Meg and Hugh Burns, on the other hand, have their feet planted firmly on the Edinburgh side.
The characters are a little stock, but funny none the less. The McIvors are stereotypical Leithers, straight-talking salt-of-the earth types, while Meg has a touch of the Hyacinth Bucket about her with an accent of the kind where sex is what the coal is delivered in.
A cast of supporting characters includes the children of the two families, Carol and Robin, who are planning to marry, Bob’s tambourine-bashing Salvation Army sister, Nellie, and hapless, foot-in-mouth cousin Wullie.
It’s fair to say the script isn’t the most groundbreaking and it takes a while to get going, but once it does there are some hilarious scenes. Most of the jokes are local-based insider humour that would only appeal to people from Edinburgh, and there’s some great comic mileage made of the tram system (In 1919 Leith had an electrified tram system, while Edinburgh only had a cable one and travellers had to change trams at the boundary).
The set was fairly standard but very well crafted kitchen of a tenement flat with a high degree of attention to detail and the costumes were mostly convincing, although a few looked like they might have been the best that could be found in a charity shop. The Newhaven fishwife’s costume was particularly good though.
The acting was warm and funny, although the two younger actors playing Carol and Robin were a little wooden and needed to relax into their characters more.
One nice touch was a display of old photographs and history of Leith around the walls, so the audience could read up on the actual history during the interval.
Ne’er the Twain is very obviously community theatre, but it is a fun piece of local drama with good use of a lesser-known aspect of the city’s history that has a great deal of comic resonance today.