Adrienne Zitt( Mary/Kate), David McFarlane (Kilbreck/Charlie), Robert Howat (Jamie)
Cast of I Promise I Shall Not Play Billiards by Fiona McDonald
Danielle Farrow (Lena), Debbie Cannon (Miss Smith), Kirtsty Eila McIntyre (Mimi), Susanna Mulvihill (Madeleine)
Scandalous Scots is an enticing title for Tightlaced Theatre’s 2012/13 season. As part of this season, they have produced a double bill of two 45 minute plays, one from story teller and resident writer, Robert Howat and the other from young local playwright, Fiona McDonald.
Charlie & My ’45 tells one man’s version of being part of the highland army of Charles Edward Stuart. Jamie, played by the writer himself, is a thoroughly disaffected Jacobite soldier who has been coerced in to fighting for a cause that means little to him. In a narrative smattered with Lowland Scots, and in what can really only be a modern voice, Howat takes the audience on his reluctant and cynical journey from Glenfinnan to Culloden via Manchester. His pious wife, Mary, pleads with him that he avoids the front line and prays that he stays safe while he is away.
An unexpected encounter with the Prince himself serves as a damascene moment for Jamie who then becomes fired up to follow the Jacobite cause. The reality and injustice of war comes home to Jamie at the massacre of Culloden when he reverts to his default position of cynic, one of the common 5/8 who, in the words of Michael Marra was definitely not “mincing wi’ Chairlie”.
The piece is radical in taking the standpoint of the common man and the effects on him and his family of decisions made by those either in power or, in the Prince’s case one who wanted to be in power but is otherwise quite weak. Adrienne Zitt was a strong presence in her double role as Mary the Madonna wife who has to contend with life on her own when Jamie fails to return home, or the possible poisoned chalice of life with local chancer, Kilbreck (David McFarlane) and as Kate the feisty Manchester tart who teaches the innocent Jamie a thing or two and gives an anti- monarchist monologue at the end. Plaintive strings and rolling drums accompany the drama that is acted out effectively by the three strong cast with minimal props.
The second drama has the rather esoteric title of I Promise I Shall Not Play Billiards. It is inspired by the 1857 trial of Glasgow socialite Madeleine Smith who was given the Scottish verdict of Not Proven after being accused of the murder of her lover, Pierre Emile l’Angelier, who died from arsenic poisoning.
The inconclusive verdict leaves natural doubt as to the guilt of the defendant. Playwright Fiona McDonald has tackled this by creating four Madeleines - the loving and demure Mimi (Kirtsty Eila McIntyre), the hard and vicious Miss Smith (Debbie Cannon) and the cool and detached Lena (Danielle Farrow). Each personified facet plays a parlour game around a mostly silent and centrally seated Madeleine (Susanna Mulvihill) who wears a tragic face throughout as they pirouette in their crinolines. The victim Pierre Emile is shown as a top hat, variously held in awe, ignored or trampled on.
The piece is full of witty dialogue but the three ‘facets’ dominate too much and overpower the ‘actual’ Madeleine. It is an interesting exploration but perhaps a more suggestive interpretation would have allowed for more concentration on the character Madeleine whose monologue at the end was delivered by Susanna Mulvihill with a real compassion that drew focus.
For such a new company, Tightlaced has an exquisite costume department, or at least has someone who can source or sew beautiful clothes. The actors in Robert Howat’s play were all properly and impressively turned out. The four crinolines and their accessories in the second play were perfect in detail, with Danielle Farrow as Lena echoing the look of Holly Hunter in Jane Campion’s film The Piano. There were several fine pairs of shoes treading the boards that did not miss my attention either!
Tightlaced has the aim “… to create high quality fringe theatre” using a method called Affectable Acting and offer training in this approach in their ensemble company. www.tightlacedtheatre.com
7 – 10 November 2012, 7.30pm (2hrs 15 including interval), Saturday matinee 3pm.
£10 (£8), on sale at Scottish Storytelling Centre