FringeReview Scotland 2013
Liz and Jim are two dodgy people, married with pretensions to defraud move from the world of dodgy designer handbags to dodgy vintage accessories, ending up trying to be dodgy art forgers. By upsetting the wrong people Jim partner ends up in a castrated ending that is very dodgy but far from fraudulent.
Liz and Jim are two market traders with a penchant for a quick buck. Thanks to a chance meeting with the writer of the show, David Leddy, they decide to tell him a tale that may be true, could be entire fiction but it takes us on a fantastic journey of how they started small, got warned off, bought a labradoodle, diversified, got threatened and then decided to pull off one of the greatest frauds in the history of their own short memories. Liz goes to art classes in order to be able to paint but really in such a short time the only art was the deception she was able to pull to bed the teacher. Following that they end up getting caught and Jim is castrated for his troubles. Revenge follows but it is far from sweet before the end of their story.
It has been a few years since I saw a David Leddy show and let me make it much shorter in the future! At points the text does become a little self indulgent but the pace and energy of the narrative pushes things along beautifully. It never regards itself too seriously but you get a sense of how the story is being told by a craftsman. The way in which he, as writer is involved in the show helps the structure and does allow you to question whether this is truth or lies in ways that helps the liars onstage become bizarrely more convincing.
Both Wendy Seagar and Neil McCormack were incredibly good. One of the major challenges was the changing accents. Even those were mentioned and commented upon onstage letting us in on secrets that helped us once again feel we were all part of the con – we had the inside track. This was deftly handled and at no time did their gusto slip. The only minor criticism was that at the beginning it took time to adjust to the acoustics which didn’t help understand the beginning but both Wendy and Neil were so enthusiastic you were upset you missed something and became determined to miss nothing else.
This was a site specific piece that was not as specifically making use of the site as it could have. Performed in the wonderful former Govan Town Hall – now Film City, Glasgow – it was all mysterious and scattered paint sheets. Lights that were bought second hand and had the look of being haphazard and frankly dangerous added to the tension of the intimate venue. This could have been performed in a derelict building or even one of the office blocks that are empty because of the recession. There would have been an added irony had the show been in one of those whereas in the ornate room it felt a tad as though the gilt of the framed ceiling was being hidden to no real end.
As with all things David Leddy this was a highly skilled piece of theatre. It had grown from work that had been commissioned through the British Museum and the RSC so had some form of pedigree and decent parents but as a skilful midwife Leddy brought out the humour, dark resonances and directorially added skilled observation to underpin the text. As a director of your own work you can sometimes slip into self indulgence but Leddy always seems to have a point to make that corrects anything like that. Here it was evident it was a piece of respect and love that was being presented.
I am a fan of his work as he has brought something to theatre without ever being confined to its walls. There is something fresh, vibrant and exciting that hangs over the buildings he has worked within.
That excitement stays with you after the show has ended, and trying to explain what it was that you saw invariably ends with the line – you had to be there. And be there you must, there is talk of a tour later and I would thoroughly recommend that you try and see it. If Leddy is able to fix a venue with slightly better acoustics I will not only join the queue but try and get to the front of it.