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FringeReview Scotland 2019


Perth Theatre at Horsecross Arts presents House of Mirth

Genre: Contemporary, Fringe Theatre, Solo Show, Theatre

Venue: Tron Theatre


Low Down

Marie is a young Scots lass who has come to London to “make it”. She meets Sean Connery, after getting robbed in the street, and is introduced to a pub where landlady Liz needs help as her other half, Barry is barely offering his other half of the effort. A themed night of costume drama sees Sean Connery joined by a variety of other artists who must be dead – unless you are Sean Connery – to get in. Barry is in the spirit and the tight fitting trousers as host and over time, Marie gets her gig with the RSC, the right costume and research to be Mary Queen of Scots and the crisis necessary to convince her that revenge is a dish best served with multiple stab wounds in the snug.


There were three massively important elements of this which made it all the more impressive; the script, the direction and the acting. Whilst the ending, as things progressed, became increasingly obvious, the subtlety with which the script organized the action, the lick and tricks of its tropes were delightfully played with to give indications and hints that Marie might be descending into a false reality. It didn’t play with us nor did it hit us straight in the face, but it gave us enough to work on before confronting our reality with Marie’s fantasy.

Of course, the words need a medium. Pun aside, the dead night theme of the pub was a great backdrop to the sorry tale of a Scottish actress trying to make it. Sarah MacGillivray’s performance matched her and director Phil Bartlett’s writing perfectly. Each change from Liz to Marie was beautifully realized. This included bringing in other characters which was done with flair and panache. It gave us confidence to follow and invest heavily in the story of two presented by one.

If a script and a performance are in place and are of this quality, then it needs a firm and noticeably absent hand at its core. Director Phil Bartlett manages to take both script and performance and affords them full opportunity to takes us by the hand and creatively dance between us. The pace does not dip, the changes do not confuse and there is insufficient furniture into which to bump but it is all there with a confidence and a simplicity that belies the craft required.

Marie’s ending is one that may still shock even though we have the hints, and it evokes a convincing denouement. Lighting, sound, costume are all additionally supportive in just the right way and it all comes together in a delightful evening that slides by.

With the current focus on mental health it is nice to see something that does not make a song and dance about it, does not seek to offer advice but manages to create a piece that nods in its direction without the worthy tag that would see it lauded for reasons apart from its artistry. It is that artistry that is confidently on show and makes for the entertainment that Marie so undoubtedly has at its core.


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