44 Inch Chest

19/08/19

theSpace on North Bridge, Edinburgh

Colin Diamond (Liam Willatt) discovers that his wife, Liz (Holly McLachlan), is having an affair – and he doesn’t take it well. He’s had the luckless ‘Loverboy’ (Simon Burke) roughed up and locked in a wardrobe by his gang of mates – and now they’re waiting around for Colin’s arrival, drinking booze and working themselves up to  cheering him on to commit murder. The gang comprises Old Man Peanut (Lee Barden), Mal (David Guy), Archie (Harvey Seymour) and Meredith (Jake Williams). A more unsavoury bunch of villains would be hard to imagine. Trust me, you wouldn’t want to spend time with any of these people. Colin arrives and, much to Peanut’s disgust, it looks as though he’s having second thoughts about killing Loverboy. And then Liz turns up, and the balance of power begins to shift.

Abridged from an unproduced original play by David Scinto and Louis Mellis, which was itself turned into a 2009 film starring Ray Winstone and John Hurt, this is something of a coup for Out of Bounds Theatre, who have scored themselves a world premiere with this production. It’s a hardcore stew of toxic masculinity that comes across like Harold Pinter with added effing and jeffing, but – once you’ve accustomed yourself to that unflinching invective – there’s a brutal kind of lyricism to what unfolds. The performances are strong, with Willatt and Barden on particularly good form, and McLachen is a tremendously calming presecence amidst all that machismo. I like the inventive direction that uses light to delineate different locations in an unusually stylistic manner.  I also enjoy Peanut’s sweary retelling of the story of Samson and Delilah.

There’s an interesting ambiguity to the play’s conclusion, but the final applause is well earned, and those looking for a slice of powerful drama in the final week of the Fringe could certainly do a lot worse than this.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

 

 

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