This production of Iain Crichton Smith’s last play, Lazybed, has special significance for more than one member of this recently formed amateur dramatic company in Edinburgh, Falling Cutlery, and the performances have been dedicated to several people with links to them.
It is the tale of a crofter, Murdo (Simon Eilbeck), who, to paraphrase the writer, preferred reading to weeding and takes to his bed to think metaphysical thoughts. He claims to be unable to use a spade and sees no reason why the world wouldn’t be better doing what he has done, that somehow things would continue without the perceived futility of work.
His poor mother is ministering to his every need to her own detriment, local nurse and childhood chum, Judith ( Katy Hastie), looks out for him, the meenister (Brian Thomson) tries his futile prayers, the devil speaks to him and Death becomes a pal and drinking buddy. He is an enigma to all. Only when his mother dies does he realise that metaphysics does not feed or clothe a body so up he gets to reassess his life from his own grumpy, star gazing perspective.
This is a play full of highly comic dialogue and entertaining absurdities. It is full of references to Beckett, Kafka, Freud but mostly Kant (Brian Thomson), who makes an appearance to Murdo to help him come to a conclusion about life as he is trying to shed his ‘impotency of the will’.
It seemed a bit long to watch down in The Studio, the basement theatre space of the Augustine United Church, and maybe the writer himself would have cut it down. Scenes like the Maypole round Death’s scythe, which sounds great didn’t really work on the tiny stage. In fact any singing was superfluous. However, how much adaptation is allowed by license, I don’t know.
Some of the cast had either never been on stage before or had not performed for a number of years, so well done to this new company for the standard of performance they achieved. Simon Eilbeck who carried the piece, was perfectly cast as Murdo, his famous mobile face and acting eyebrows were right in the spotlight for this bed ridden role where he really (along with the spotlight!) shone.
There is a great line between the meenister and him: “Do you read the Bible?” “Do you read Dostoyevsky?” which was worthy of the great character, Callum, from the ‘80s Scottish comedy series, Absolutely.
Brian Thomson, a real natural on stage, played the three roles of Meenister, specialist who sold him ‘pills for the will to work’ and Emmanuel Kant with equal aplomb.
Cornelius Pearce, looking suitably cadaverous and louche, could have been born to play this coolly philosophising Death although his scythe was at times a bit unwieldy, casting shadows over other cast members in the small space.
Simone Thorn was a bit too suburban to be convincing as a rural nosy neighbour, but Katy Hastie as Murdo’s love, Judith, could clean windows to match Marcel Marceau any day!
Crichton Smith’s hope for what was his final work was nothing more than that people enjoyed it. The mostly young, and possibly friend and family audience, certainly did. As ever with director Gregor Shanks, this was an ambitious and enthusiastic production.
17-19 March, 7:30pm
Tickets £7.50 (£6)