Edinburgh Evening News *** - 2009: Self Help/Respect
Date Published: 25 June 2009
LOVE sex and death all reared their heads at last night's double-header by up-and-coming playwright Anita Gallo at the GRV.
First up was the sparky, razor-sharp and extremely inventive comedy Self Help.
The clue to the story was in the title. Victoria, superbly played by Lori Mclean, was on a voyage of self-discovery prompted by one of those ubiquitous manuals found in every bookshop. The first stage of her quest was to find love, which brought her to the dating agency run by personable con-woman Nan, played in wonderful mannered style by Ann Kane Howie.
Through Nan, Victoria meets Bill (Ian Sexton) and Steve (Paul Comrie) and finds her path to self-empowerment lies in new and exciting directions.
With intelligent and perceptive writing along with extremely clever use of props, sets, sound, and movement, Gallo and director Andy Correlli produced a clever, engaging, and witty piece which was entertaining but also contained a good smattering of social comment.
The cast were uniformly excellent and as a bonus seemed to relish their roles and sucked the juice from every quirky line. Lori Mclean was able to make the journey from confused seeker of truth to her final triumph of empowerment not only funny but believable and touching. Ann Kane Howie switched hilariously from Morningside to gallous in the blink of an eye and was superb at both. The two male roles could have been underwritten in what was a play essentially from a female perspective but while they were more stereotypical they were still given great lines to deliver.
The audience greatly enjoyed their first slice of theatre and went out to the bar having been treated to a joyous performance played by a cast who were clearly having fun with the material. Because of this what awaited them on their return was all the more disappointing.
Billed as a dark psychological thriller, Respect was instead a flat two-hander lacking the necessary tension to achieve its objectives.
A cautionary tale of a one-night stand gone wrong, all the elements were certainly in place for something disturbing but somehow it never truly arrived.
Both performances were good, with Justine Wortsman giving a perfect sketch of a career woman driven by personal demons and Paul Comrie revealing the damaged individual underneath the cocky cruelty of his character. They were, however unable to convincingly convey fear or menace enough to draw in the crowd.
Inspired by the author's love of psychological thrillers there was a strong cinematic feel throughout and it's difficult not to feel that it might have been better on the screen instead of the stage.
Gallo is a talented writer and double bills are always tricky so it would be churlish to take away from the success of the evening's opener by dwelling too much on the failings of its companion piece.
If you want to enjoy a wonderful half-evening at the theatre then you could do worse than head along
Edinburgh Evening News
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