City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Nova Scotia Review

By Vivien Devlin - Posted on 01 May 2008

Show Details
Traverse Theatre
Traverse Theatre Company
John Byrne (writer/ costume designer), Paddy Cunneen (director), Jeannine Davies (lighting designer), Michael Taylor (Designer)
Meg Fraser (Didi), Nicholas Karimi (Corky), Cara Kelly (Nancy), Robin Laing (Miles), Paul Murrow (Phil), Gerry Mulgrew (Spanky), Gerda Stevenson (Lucille)
Running time: 

John Byrne’s trilogy of plays, The Slab Boys, (1978) Cutting the Rug (1979) and Still Life, (1982) followed the hilarious antics of Phil “James Dean” McCann, his best mate Spanky Farrell and the lascivious Lucille, in and out of the slab paint room of a Paisley carpet factory. Set between the 1957 and 1972, it captured the brash, brazen rock ‘n roll generation, all razor sharp Glesga patter, brylcreemed hair and drainpipe jeans, all dressed up and nowhere to go. At the end of Still Life, the disillusioned Phil is an aspiring artist while Spanky dreams of a rock guitarist lifestyle in the States. Nova Scotia is the next instalment - 30 years on.

A summer's day, 2002: Phil is now in his 60s and a successful artist living in an 15th century tower house in the north east of Scotland. His partner is the much younger blonde bombshell Didi Chance, a conceptual video artist and recently nominated for the Turner prize. They have two children, as seen by the scattering of pedal cars, prams, dolls and balls lying around the lawn and up trees in the exquisitely realistic stage set featuring the ivy clad stone wall of the house, patio and garden. You can actually smell the grass and feel the sunshine.

Enter, scene by scene, five visitors who in a crazy sequence of events begin to disturb Phil's peaceful Highland retreat and greenhouse studio. First is the happy, hyperactive Corky, (Didi's squeeze on the side) - a film cameraman shooting a music DVD at the house, followed by Nancy Rice, a BBC Scotland arts reporter, who has come to interview Phil but actually more interested in the contemporary celebrity artist Didi. The recording is interrupted by the arrival of a grey haired, pony-tailed Glaswegian with a strange Californian accent. It's Spanky, Phil's long lost friend from teenage slab boy days, and now an ageing hippy musician. And tagging along behind is darling Lucille, his glamorous wife - and to complicate matters further - Phil's ex.

In the midst of this mad media circus taking place in his garden, Phil - comically portrayed by Paul Murrow in paint spattered jeans and flowery shirt - wanders about dazed and confused as if this is all just a bad dream. Cara Kelly is fabulously spot on in manner and personality as Nancy the neurotic, hard-nosed, BBC presenter. And taking centre stage is Gerry Mulgrew as the outrageous, former junkie /alcoholic rock star who models himself on a blend of Hendrix/Clapton/Dylan/Lennon.

All in all Nova Scotia is a crazy slap stick, Ayckbournian farce revolving around friends reunited, marital infidelities, egocentric creative artistes while discussing the meaning of art in the 21st century. For those who never saw the original Slab Boys plays, you don't need to know the background on who's who to catch on. It's a play in its own right. There's no discernable plotline with no clear denouement but for all that it's a fun show to welcome back Phil, Spanky and Lucille. John Byrne is rumoured to be scribbling the outline to episode 5 of the Slab Boys trilogy.

Show times - Traverse Theatre 25 April to 27 May.