★★★★ “…a larger than life comic strip style energy pulses McDonnell’s own production”
– Neil Cooper (The Herald)
★★★★ “Crackling comedy”
– Thom Dibdin (All Edinburgh Theatre)
There’s equal measures of biting wit and pacy dialogue in the downstairs room of New Town gastro pub Little White Pig, as writer-director Mark McDonnell launches his latest production, Ludicrous MacKenzie, and a new venue.
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McDonnell’s cracking new comedy has bundles of snarky attitude – couched in beautifully observed patter and delivered by a to-die-for cast in the tiny downstairs room of what used to be the New Town Bar. The production values might be as basic as the bench seating, but everything else is just about as quality as it could be.
Louise “Ludicrous” MacKenzie is found practicing her mask work before setting forth to share her over-bearing positivity with her youth theatre class in Greater Mimsy. Her life, it would seem, is intimately bound up with Beth and Al, the acerbic gallery assistants at the Greater Mimsy museum.
As McDonnell winds the two elements together, Ludicrous has to deal with the trials and tribulations of rabid nuns, broken loos on ScotFail and her class of dubiously enthusiastic kids.
Rebekah Lumsden is pitch-perfect in the title role. Without going too far down the mock-the-hippy route, she gets the naivety and complex mix of smug self-satisfaction and self-doubt that comes with a certain kind of youthful need to be right-on.
It’s not the physical comedy which sets this apart, or that Ludicrous knits her own muesli or holds a naming ceremony for her pashmina – although such things provide some properly vicious laugh-lines – but Lumsden’s understanding of the sincerity which underpins her character.
The contrast with Wendy Seager and Mori Christian as the deeply cynical museum workers Beth and Al could hardly be greater or more welcome. The creation of a double act of public-hating public service workers is as sharp, probably unfair and utterly hilarious as any evocation of a Parkie in the Dandy or the Beano.
Seager and Christian give plenty of room for McDonnell’s flights of surreal fantasy to take off, dropping in to People’s Court and Mission Impossible pastiches. There’s absolutely no need for the fade-to-exterior kind of device which this would be available if this was a TV comedy show, as they give voice to the duo’s deadpan catchphrases, filling in the background details on a strictly need-to-know basis.
If there is fault to be found, the writing gets just a little pat around the ending. Meaning that the resolution doesn’t quite give the amount of resonance of the relationships that it might.
But in truth, the joy in this production is less about the substance of the script – as funny as it might be – than the quality of performances on the tiny stage.
Lumsden, who has provided some great performances at Dundee Rep and touring to the Traverse, here shows that she also has impeccable comic chops. Seager and Christian bring all their considerable craft to bear on both the museum workers and a pair of formidable students in the youth theatre. There’s even room for Layza Esterla to cameo in the non-speaking role of a nun.
The room itself certainly has plenty of potential as a regular fringe venue. It’s probably a bit too cramped to be a fully fledged pub-venue, in a “Below the Little White Pig” style, but it certainly has the makings of somewhere for regular shows and an Edinburgh Fringe venue of some kind or other.
However, the co-producers at the Little White Pig will be hard pressed to find something of equal quality to this collaboration with McDonnell’s own Son of Dave productions. A crackling wee comedy.