The second part of John Byrne‘s trilogy starts like binge drinking, but sours like a hangover. Director Caroline Paterson has brought all the brio and energy into the first half, complete with sassy dance routines and flirting; only for it to dip into misanthropic misery in the second.
The Stobo carpet factory dance, where we lay our scene, is fair birlin’ with catcalls, preening and fancy shapes being thrown. Ryan Fletcher’s Phil is great- a gallus anti-hero, but only shows glimmers of having a real soul towards the end. The supporting cast are excellent throughout- catty bickering between frenemies Lucille (a splendid spiky Helen Mallon in her black cocktail dress) and Bernadette (Louise McCarthy, Jessica Rabbit bod with the mouth of the Clyde tunnel) is funny, precisely as their one-liners are echoed by the affected machismo of the loutish wanna-be Jimmy Dean boys. Matinee Americana is hard to replicate in Paisley, particularly when the power keeps cutting oot.
Ultimately though, Byrne’s script invites cheap laughs at his underdog characters: delusional, needy Mrs Walkinshaw (Anne Lacey, heartbreaking) who gets groped in the dark while drinking herself into near-oblivion, and Scott Fletcher’s pathetic lovelorn wee Hector meets a bloody end. It rather does for the fifties what Altamont did for the sixties, with flick knives tucked into petticoat hems and brothel creepers. Dark humour is fine- but this just leaves a bitter taste as the audience file out. That’s life, Byrne says here- it starts with It’s A Wonderful Life, and ends with a suicide attempt.Still, worth a spin for a while.
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow until 4th March
Kings Theatre Edinburgh, 7th-11th March