Graeae Theatre Company and the Royal Exchange
Northern Stage at Summerhall
From 05 August 2017 to 26 August 2017
Review by Georgina Wells
Flying the flag for the North West of England at the Fringe are Graeae Theatre Company and the Royal Exchange, who present Jackie Hagan's new two-hander Cosmic Scallies.
Set in Lancashire town Skelmersdale, it follows a day in the life of Susan and her old school friend Shaun, who are reunited now that Susan has moved back to her old home town. It's a darkly comic portrayal of working class life, referencing benefits, drugs, education, class divide and gender.
It also touches on disability, a subject that Graeae incorporates into all of its productions. Susan references being bullied at school because of her dwarfism, while Shaun asserts that her inability to walk as a result of her chronic pain renders her disabled. Captions are projected onto the set to make the performance accessible.
Cosmic Scallies is very funny, particularly Shaun's description of Skelmersdale life and its characters (Wheelchair Terry etc) but the issues faced by the characters are real, particularly in our current political climate. While Hagan's script does protest against inequality—the double standards for gender, the tedious bureaucracy of the NHS—serious moments run the risk of getting lost in the laughs.
The final scene sees Shaun and Susan reliving their childhood memories, wrapped in battery-powered fairy lights because the electricity meter has run out of money—a sweet, striking image of positivity in the face of adversity.