Gift of the Gab
Simon David Eden
Shiny Pin Productions
White Bear Theatre
Gift of the Gab is a misguided play.
It is set in Brighton 1979 but harks back to an earlier period of television and film comedy about rogues incompetently trying to make easy money.
The characters, the plot and the dialogue never rise above the cartoon. Intended as harmless fun, it feels dated, especially in the way it portrays the only woman character and its casual insensitivity to race.
Most of the play takes place in the café of Ric Rizzini's (Ivanoe Norona) where a group of crooks socialise after spending a hard day knocking on doors pretending to be security advisors so they can check people’s homes for valuables they can later steal.
They chat about nothing in particular for the sixty-five-minute first half only to then dash through such a mass of plot twists, improbable events and knockabout violence it could make you dizzy.
One source of the violence is the hot-tempered Italian Ric who smashes up a vehicle outside the café sparking a feud with local toughs. It is possibly they who break into the café one evening robbing the cash register and assaulting Ric who happens to arrive there at the same time.
As the beaten Ric staggers into the café, you might expect him to tend his wounds or check the money lost or even phone the police.
He doesn’t do any of that. In fact none of the attack seems to interest him because he gets angry seeing his daughter Concetta (Madalina Bellariu) holding a book. Perhaps he was worried she was trying to escape the passive, subservient 1950s seaside postcard role the writer had constructed for her.
She has barely anything to say in the play and other characters assume she is so passive it doesn’t matter if she hears all their secret plans to cheat each other.
Essentially, she functions as an attractive love interest that her father must possessively guard and the rogues must competitively try to win.
At least they don’t call her “a wop”. That’s the term they use for Ric, though he doesn’t seem to mind. However I suspect that Cliff Richard might object to hearing them call him a deviant and a “paki”.
The racist terminology is meant to make us laugh at the characters that use it but it also trivialises its use.
The only black character is a not very bright lad named “ToeRag” who can’t read and makes a brief appearance so we can laugh at him being bitten in the bottom during a botched robbery.
The play’s purpose is always to raise laughs. It spends too much time in the first half doing nothing and then too little time in the second half racing through unbelievable plot twists.
There is also something deeply problematic about its very dated depiction of women and its peculiar approach to racism.
Simon David Eden wrote the very funny and entertaining play The Albatross 3rd & Main so it is difficult to understand why he should want Gift of the Gab to be performed in his name.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna