Gregory Burke
Traverse Theatre Company and The Ustinov, Bath, in association with Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Publicity photo

"At least you had the church booked." Nikki tells her older sister Vicky whose wedding has turned funeral after her fiancé Andy's fatal stag weekend.

There are many other good one-liners and morbid humour as the characters pay their last respects and disrespects to Andy's coffin. Loot, though, it isn't, as the action and comedy never quite take off.

Perhaps the problem is that after you have discovered the facts of the stag party, none of what happens in Vicky's living room and bedroom is ever going to come close to topping that. Even the recounting of the stag story is short and too early in the play. One wonders if leaving it more to the imagination might have been a better plan too.

Plot aside, the cast is sharp, real and spot-on with their delivery. The most striking is Nikki (Catherine Murray), the cocky younger sister who is all leg, flashing eyes and snappy put-downs. Vicky (Lisa Gardner) is an understandably less confident character, experiencing a conflicting concoction of grief and relief.

The play begins with the young women sharing a bottle of wine, discussing Marc Jacobs and rehearsing for the funeral. Murray and Gardner spark off each other well and get the audience warmed up immediately.

The relaxed conviviality of the girls' night in is broken by the arrival of Stevie (Michael Moreland) and Tony (Andy Clark), friends of Andy round to pay their respects. They've been invited, but the presence of the coffin makes the initial exchanges awkward, for the men at least, although Nikki relishes it.

Stevie is the only one who was on the fateful stag weekend, but it can't have affected him that much as he's already started something with Vicky. Moreland creates a surprisingly sympathetic character despite Stevie's restraining order, the more simple straightforward nature provides a useful foil for the others.

Dark horse Tony has returned from Dubai and, like Clark's previous role at the Traverse (The Ching Room), he's brought some nose candy with him. Slightly predictably they're soon snorting it off the coffin's polished plaque. Clark isn't as sinister in this role, but he's well versed in carrying off coke-fuelled verbal diarrhoea.

The playwright seems a little fearful of scenes of more than two people: most of the play is duologues. While some of these were very good, especially the earlier ones between the women and later the blokes discussing the stag do, the male-female duologues were less strong.

It felt slightly formulaic that every combination seemed to occur, and of course there was a sexual element to all of them. This structure would have been fine, however, if there had been more direction to the piece, but there was no build-up to anything, no crescendo - if anything there was a slight diminuendo as the piece lost energy towards the end.

The encounter between Nikki and Tony, with the strength of these two characters, had the potential to be much more explosive; it certainly had its moments but it didn't really build up to anything. It was a pity that Nikki and Vicky weren't allowed more interaction later in the piece, rather than their being always caught in some sort of sexual showdown with one or other of the men.

Either it should have been shorter, as the content didn't really merit the length, the lack of interval may have also been a problem as it was significantly longer than the usual one act play. Or there should have been some new developments, possibly another character or two might have helped.

It is worth seeing for the performances and also some really great lines. Keeping a comedy going for this length of time is no easy task and there's no denying the cast kept the audience entertained.

Until 23 May

Allison Vale reviewed the production when its transferred to Bath

Reviewer: Seth Ewin

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