Edinburgh Fringe 2019
Boss and Kid meet. We are not entirely told how though we are given options. He is an academic who is bored and looking for adventure. She is transient and looking for a place to be. Between them they pull off the theft from the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum of Salvador Dali’s masterpiece held there; Christ of St John of the Cross. An iconic piece of art work, this production takes another iconic piece of creativity, a Belle and Sebastian album, and given it a platform. Boss and Kid meander through the songs and the storyline with them indulging, engaging, arguing and when Boss’s book launch brings her with the painting to gate crash, they hatch a plan to put it back. Ironically, she gets caught, ends up in prison and they end with her talking up the library inside and him agreeing to leave her, his books, in the will.
The songs are exceptional, but we know they are going to be. The script has a decent attempt at taking them and giving us something to look at and be a part of. The conceit of the theft of Dali’s masterpiece is a very good start. For those of us who know the history of the painting, there is not much more iconic culturally for all Glaswegians, outside of a football team.
It is an incredibly well acted piece of theatre, but the script has a problem; it lacks real depth. The patios of Glasgow humour and rhythm which writer Eve Nicol and dramaturg Graeme Eatough have strung things together between is a great structure and it delivers plenty of flourishes but there is a feeling that the narrative is still underdeveloped.
The fact that Kid seems to walk around Glasgow with the painting in an art bag and nobody asks what is in it or challenges her when everyone in Glasgow would have been in the lookout takes this from incredible to unbelievable.
Combined with the storyline of Boss’s fascination with the 50,000 corpses that are in the Necropolis which seems to dip in and dip back out again as a narrative strand, I was looking for more of a tie up and tie in. I would have thought it might feature more but the heist part, probably meant to be the strength in the piece feels a couple of drafts away from being in the right place to allow that narrative to shine and for the storylines to find strength in each other.
The direction is sound and gives us the story with little by way of theatrical flourish, however the lighting appears almost arbitrary at times and darkness a mode of illumination. The set is functional but gives us a glimpse of Auld Govan chic and bedsit Govanhill rather than an up market West End hidey hole.
It’s a very decent piece of theatre and the venue may be one in which it could have shined more brightly but it ended up being one that opens up the possibility of Glasgow having the most creative and criminal masterminds in Scotland but here it seems to be muddled with its own cause.