MIDSUMMER (A PLAY WITH SONGS)
The Cultch has opened its beautifully renovated mainstage theatre with one of the most delightful shows ever to grace that venerable space. Scotland’s David Greig does a great job directing a marvellous cast of two in his own terrific script, written with Scottish singer/songwriter Gordon McIntyre. This Traverse Theatre Company production brings some crazy, smart, and joyful midsummer madness to a city hurting from the stupid kind of political madness that brings no joy at all.
Midsummer is the story of two sad-sack people and the wild weekend they spend together, alternately narrated, acted out, and sung by the two characters. Small-time criminal Bob (Matthew Pidgeon) epitomizes mediocrity, and on the eve of his 35th birthday wonders, “Is this it?” At a bar he meets Helena (Cora Bissett), a divorced divorce lawyer suffering from “cold loneliness.” They have a lot in common. They share the notion that “disappointment will be our default position,” and sing, “I’m itching to be told / That life does more than make you old.” They don’t sound like much of a fun couple but after a night of hilarious and extremely energetic sex, they set out on a strange journey to defy mortality and reinvigorate their lives—and ours.
The plot is a kind of gangster movie spoof. Bob’s crime boss has him sell a pink sports car. But instead of handing the boss the £15,000 in cash, Bob decides to blow it on a crazy weekend spending spree with Helena. And that they do, with funny adventures along with way involving a gang of Goths, a postman, a lot of running, and a dream-like happy ending no less outrageous than the one Shakespeare’s Helena and friends experience at the end of their midsummer night’s adventure.
Though playing somewhat melancholy characters, Bissett and Pidgeon are upbeat and attractive. And both are extremely talented actors, singers and musicians, accompanying themselves on guitar. Bissett has a wonderful smoky voice and the two are excellent comedians. Pidgeon is particularly funny in one routine where Bob carries on a lengthy conversation with his penis, played by an Elmo puppet. You have to be there.
Greig’s consistently smart and engaging dialogue is matched by McIntyre’s clever lyrics and melodious tunes. And Georgia McGuinness’ set, which looks like a simple bedroom, turns out to have endless nooks and crannies, hidden props and other surprises that help the intermissionless 100 minute show fly by.
This is simply great theatre. Let’s hope it’s an augury of things to come at the spanking new Cultch.