Edinburgh Fringe 2017
Two gangsters are in an office to audition for a film which is being made. The film are after authenticity and want to have genuine and real bad guys, hence Bert and Alf are here to try and get into the acting malarkey. With Bert’s niece, the receptionist with whom Alf seems to have backstory the tension is increased when runner/Assistant Director, Crispin is in to take an unusual audition. It all ends up with someone down to their underwear and more cockney rhyming slang than an episode of Minder would have allowed.
Irvine Welsh has a writing credit for this which guarantees decent audiences daily. They witness a script that is all rosy lea and tit fors rather than the promised insight into the psyche of bad guys and glamour film making. I found that for me, major problem was the script. It tended to the cliché rather than bring the audience into the middle of a genuine piece of social commentary. Billed as a black comedy I struggled to find most of the humour though by the end of the piece it was becoming increasingly melodramatic.
Reputations became more important by this time as discussions around who was likely to see the film and whether being involved in the film was likely to improve Bert and Alf’s reputation or destroy it. There was a clear opportunity here to make comment on how the past is not quite as much of a foreign country as you might imagine, but it slipped past.
I got the impression that hiding in amongst the script is a commentary struggling to get out and with the best efforts of all 4 actors they can only work with the material they have been given. Their approach was to try and play it with as much belief as possible and for the most part, this was quite convincing.
There were some good set pieces and the receptionist plays a very interesting role. Her appearance onstage is a highlight as Alf and Bert take time to warm up. The script’s inclusion of the swinging 60’s Crispin – all scarf and misogynistic camp – was part of the confusion. When this was a 3 or 4 hander it worked best as the discussion was better handled. When it was just the two gangsters it seemed to slip back into stereotype. This was perhaps surprising as Crispin was far more stereotypical than the gangsters and yet managed to provide us with the most bizarre of plot devices – the gangsters had to strip to be in it.
Just why someone who, it is suggested, might have held others in awe and fear for their lives would throw off his clothes to a man in a silk scarf and Kaftan in the swinging sixties stretched my credulity. That his other half was getting horny over the descriptions of gay sex was more interesting but once raised the issue was dropped and I was sorry to see that.
The set is, however, great and evokes the right time period. The theatre arts used in costume, music and lighting supported well enough.
Overall this was a worthy attempt at touching upon social progress. It’s worth a look and many shall take the chance as Welsh’s name is seen as a guarantee of quality and insightful comment; and here he almost pulls it off.