King’s Theatre, Edinburgh
It’s 1957, a Friday night and, in Paisley Town Hall, the annual staff dance of carpet manufacturers, AF Stobo & Co., is about to kick off in style. All the usual suspects have arrived for the do: the teddy boys and the ready girls, the starchy ex-army boss of the design room, the out-of-his-depth University student. There’s also an aging dowager still steadfastly looking for love, a bluntly spoken tea lady – and let’s not forget ‘weedy Hector’, newly promoted to the role of designer and proudly dressed in his Uncle Bertie’s dinner suit. It promises to be an eventful evening.
This is the second part of John Byrne’s ‘Slab Boys’ trilogy (originally known as Paisley Patterns), first performed at the Traverse Theatre in 1979 and revived here by Glasgow’s iconic Citizens Theatre. It’s unashamedly a period piece, performed in broad Glaswegian dialect and punctuated with lively shots of rock n’ roll. It pinpoints an era, a few years before the Beatles changed the world, when American music still dominated the airwaves. As the protagonists talk and drink and dance and drink and fight and drink, the events become increasingly frenetic, as old rivalries rise to the surface and the Town Hall’s electricity supply becomes ever more erratic.
In all honesty, this production is a little one-note; there’s no real change of pace or tone at any point in the proceedings. But this is made up for by the enthusiasm of the performances. I particularly like Anne Lacey’s turn as the tragic Miss Walkinshaw, dressed in outmoded clothes and drunkenly lamenting the various ways in which life and romance have unerringly passed her by. Ryan Fletcher is also assured as snappy dresser Phil, a role first played by one Robbie Coltrane. Whatever happened to him?
If you know the era and you can handle the salty dialogue, this ribald, saucy comedy might just be the play for you. It’s on at the King’s Theatre until the 11th of March.