Gilded Balloon, Teviot, Edinburgh
The Ballard brothers have just attended the funeral of their father. What better way to celebrate the old man’s life than to head to the Oaklawn Park race track and lay down a few bets? Eldest brother, Frank (Robert M. Foster) is over from Chicago and has booked a luxury box for their private use. He’s soon joined by loose-canon middle brother Ned (Malcolm Madera) and youngest sibling, Johnny (Jake Silbermann), newly released from prison and looking to pick up the pieces of his shattered life. The trio begin to gamble, they drink alcohol and as their inhibitions break down, so the realities of their troubled upbringing start to manifest themselves. It’s no great surprise to discover that Ballard Senior wasn’t a very nice man at all. Little wonder his sons still carry the scars of unresolved issues. Meanwhile, waitress Becky (Teresa Stephenson) is charged with the thankless task of dealing with the Ballards as they hurtle towards alcohol-fuelled oblivion.
Samuel Brett Williams has written a gritty melodrama about familial love and hate and the three male leads of Camisade Theatre Company throw themselves into this powerful drama with gusto, delivering strong performances with the accent on physicality. A scene where Frank throws Johnny onto (and through) a table is shocking in its impact, though ultimately maybe there’s a little too much fighting in there for comfort – these guys seem ready to punch each other at the drop of a hat. We’re even warned as we come in to avoid sitting in the front row, in case we get caught up in the affray!
I particularly liked Silbermann’s portrayal of the not-very-bright Johnny, a man who may as well walk around with the word ‘doomed’ tattooed on his forehead, but the play doesn’t always convince us that these are real characters in a real situation. Too many of the lines seem to be addressed directly to the audience and there are places where the pre-recorded race commentary overpowers the characters’ dialogue.
However, this is a credible production that’s worth catching before it’s gone. As the story gallops into the final furlong, it’s clear this is not going to end well… and all bets are off.