PQA Venues

Dancing in the Moonlight

08/08/19

PQA Venues, Edinburgh

The first time I spot Miles Mlambo, sitting in a café, is an oddly disturbing moment. I am looking at what appears to be the late Phil Lynott’s identical twin. ‘That guy must be in a Thin Lizzy tribute act,’ I decide.

Well, close, but no cigar. Dancing in the Moonlight is a monologue, written and performed by Mlambo, which describes itself as ‘a play about Phil Lynott’ – and, up on the tiny stage at PQA, it’s clear from the outset that the actor has the bluff Dublin brogue to go with that imposing physical presence. (Oh, in case you were wondering, the name is pronounced ‘lie-not,’ rather than ‘linn-not.’)

He tells us about his birth, his early years knocking around on the streets of Manchester, his subsequent move to Dublin without his mother, Philomena. We learn about his early days playing with show bands around Ireland, his short-lived career as front man for Skid Row and the final roll of dice that positioned him to become the leader of what was to be one of the most influential Celtic rock bands of all time.

Mlambo is a likable storyteller but, if there’s a shortcoming here, it’s in the script department, which lacks the swaggering romanticism that infused Lynott’s writing. Incidents that surely deserve to be studied in more depth – such as being abandoned by his mother – are summarily pushed aside. And, as a long time fan of Thin Lizzy,  I would like to see more of the band’s music incorporated into the story.

But if anyone out there is planning to produce a rock biopic about Thin Lizzy, Mlambo is the first actor you should consider for the lead.

3 stars

Philip Caveney

Early Birds

13/08/18

PQA Venues, Riddle’s Court, Edinburgh

Early Birds is a gentle tribute to the hit TV sit-com, Birds of a Feather. Penned by the same writers, Maurice Gran and Laurence Marks, it charts the development of the show, from its inauspicious conception to the mighty 13 million viewers who tuned in for the first episode. It made stars of its lead actors, notably Linda Robson and Pauline Quirke, and it’s the latter whose project this really is, commissioned especially for the Pauline Quirke Academy’s inaugural Edinburgh Fringe programme.

Fans of the original sit-com will no doubt be charmed by this addition to the canon. There are no great revelations, but we do learn about the crucial moment when Maurice (Alastair Natkiel) saw two women and their gangster boyfriends looking incongruous in a posh hotel, and began to ruminate on their circumstances, thus sparking the idea. And it’s interesting to see the writers’ battles with bureaucracy, all the ‘nearlies’ and ‘almosts’ that could easily have sunk the show.

Harriet Watson and Katriona Perrett are perfectly cast as Pauline/Sharon and Linda/Tracey, giving lively, sparky performances. Sue Appleby is also good as Lesley Joseph/Dorien, and Charlie Quirke (Pauline Quirke’s real-life son) is quite the scene-stealer, both as Mr Timms, the supercilious dole officer sneering at Pauline’s thespian aspirations, and as Allan, a wheeler-dealer TV producer/money man.

If there’s a problem, it’s to do with a script that feels more like TV than theatre, with lots of short scenes that flit between locations, and it’s not helped by all the unnecessary moving of furniture. Why are there two different sofas being dragged on and off the stage, for example? Surely a throw or a even a change of lighting would be enough to let us know we’re somewhere else at another time? The frequent set changes slow down the pace and disrupt the story’s flow.

The best part by far is the re-enactment of the first episode’s recording, complete with floor managers, make-up artists and even a warm-up comedian. This section is a lot of fun, and the performers are clearly enjoying what they do.

If you fancy a slice of nostalgia and enjoy an origins story, then this just might be the show for you.

3 stars

Susan Singfield