Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Martin McCormack loved America as a kid. Growing up in Glasgow, he had a clear vision of how he would live his life in the style of the TV shows he so loved. When he met an American whilst on an exchange visit and fell for her the love affair gained flesh and desire followed. When it was continued through phone and text things were getting serous and then… silence. Learning that this silence had been due to a car crash he eventually managed to get back out to the States and see his love when he walked into a mid-west nightmare that ended when he escaped and took with him, something that only those who treasured it would miss.
McCormick knows how to deliver a script. Here he has rich material that is just brimming full of the vitality that helps an actor make the stage come alive. He is helped by the fantastic live music/foley work of David A. Pollock and the foil that is the multi character performance of Jess Chanliau. The narrative takes enough twists and turns to keep us attentive but always has at its heart a simple tale of boy meets girl and dreams, girl disappears and boy sweats, girl returns and boy chases but when he catches up, he is caught out.
That dream like dance upon which McCormack shall falter is deftly delivered with a direction from Ben Harrison that understands not only the way the narrative needs to be delivered but theatrically how the direction keeps us in the palm of their hands. The combination of the internal monologue with a hilariously Scottish comic twang which takes McCormack down a peg or two, regularly, is not just a classic trope of the Scottish psyche but hilarious too. That we have a foley artist live and delivering the sound effects whilst also able to interact and interject is a piece of sheer genius.
I loved this from the beginning through to the end. The set up works well, the narrative has enough twists and turns to keep the most inattentive in the moment, the direction is crisp and clear, the video work acts like a commentary on what is happening and the lighting and sound manage to melt into the directions in which we are headed.
The ability of Chanliau to give us two generations of one family as well as the acrobatics at the beginning goes beyond being impressive to the point where I am genuinely in awe of her ability and nuanced performances. McCormack manages to show us himself as both glaikit and determined whilst the final reveal brought gasps, inwardly they had me gasping throughout.
Overall the production manages to show that Grid Iron have still not lost any of the touches that brought them from the fringes of Scottish theatre into a mainstream product. The joy of telling a tale that looks at the human condition from such an inventive angle is to be admired and expected, nay even demanded of our best theatre companies. We get here, the local tale told with international resonance; just as it should be.