Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Deception

John Inglis, Lorna Dixon, John McColl, and Helen McColl
Crossfire Theatre Company
Roxy Arthouse, Edinburgh
(2005)

Eight short plays of varying quality make up Crossfire Theatre Company's new production. Some of the short pieces are funny, others are poignant, and a few make the idea of watching paint dry seem like a rollicking Saturday night out.

The evening starts off strongly, with Oops! One Over the Eight, by John Inglis, a story about a wife who visits her dying husband. Although the construction of the story means one can see the punchline coming after just a few minutes, the final twist still provokes a laugh. Acting by John McColl (as Sammy) and Helen McColl (Isa) is strong, with both displaying excellent comic timing. The piece has a strong connection to the evening's theme, and was a good choice for getting the audience involved straight off the bat.

Lorna Dixon's Mother Love is the next piece, but it is muddled and unclear. The actors (Dixon, Mike Duffy, and Alan Draser) and director (Helen McColl) fail to bring a sense of urgency or emotional involvement to this piece, which perhaps suffers from a case of too many reversals without enough commitment to any one of them.

The Number You Dialed Has Not Been Recognized is one of the most engaging pieces of the night, about a lonely housewife who works as a phone sex operator. John McColl's script is punchy and blunt, and Debbie Whyte (Jen) and Greg Mitchell (Ronnie) do a fine job of exploiting the humour inherent in the situation without turning their characters into caricatures.

The next two pieces, Mirror Talk and Red Recycled, both penned by Dixon, do little to reverse the trend set by Mother Love. Mirror Talk is verbose and unengaging, and Red Recycled is a hackneyed retelling of Red Riding Hood wherein the wolf is a vegetarian, Red is a smarmy uni student, Grandma a clubbing slapper, and the huntsman a squeamish new age man. The idea has potential but is badly mishandled in execution.

Helen McColl's Dressing Down and Colour Me Blue come next; Dressing Down is edgy and harsh, with brilliant performances by Whyte and McColl (directed by Mike Duffy). This is the only time during the evening that a real sense of danger pervaded the theatre; McColl's story of a woman who humiliates her hooligan husband turns a potentially violent situation into one both funny and disturbing. It would have been nice to see more of Sheila's (Whyte's) transformation from cowed wife to dominatrix, but it's a small quibble and one which doesn't impede one's enjoyment of the piece. Colour Me Blue attempts to present vivid, colorful imagery and poetic language, but would have worked better as a piece of prose than of dramatic writing.

Finally, John Inglis' The End Of Everything rounds off the evening, with the tale of an aging diva (Dixon) whose one-time fame has now been reduced to walk-on roles.

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Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody