Saving Mr Ultimate
New Celts Productions and Extra Arca
Mr. Ultimate, a small local comic book shop, is heavily in debt and needs to be sold to cover the costs, as well as provide any sort of security for both 17-year-old Paul and his older brother Barry, sons of the late owner.
One big obstacle being that the staff are a bunch of weird misfits, and half of them would rather skedaddle, skive or set up a party than help pack up the remaining comics. The other being that Paul doesn't really want to go, and the world as seen through his superhero fixated mind maybe doesn't quite fit with reality; nor is he prepared for the changes Barry and his fiancée Annabelle are about to make to their lives.
This is an oddly mixed bag of a play. Considering the fairly normal running time of just over an hour, there are subplots aplenty, character relationships hinted at and glossed over and plot threads dangled at the audience from all angles, and yet, most of which are actually tied up, in resolutions of sorts, which if not wholly satisfying at least provide a neat closure.
Similarly, while there are frenetic and noisy times onstage where almost the entire cast appear at once, there are small, close and quiet scenes with only one or two actors onstage, where the drama and interplay become captivating and speak of depths of story and character far greater than previously let on. This is due in part to a opening which throws far too many characters at the audience at once, and fervently hopes that they'll pick up the pieces as the show goes on.
Even then, key pieces of information, such as the respective ages of Paul and Barry, aren't even mentioned until more than halfway through proceedings, which has the curious effect of meaning that for half a play, the audience is wondering if he's a grown man with some form of handicap rather than simply a teenager, as is established at the 11th hour.
The end result is a play that is curiously likeable, but only so despite some major flaws. With a longer running time and a bit more room to breathe, establish things better and let the other characters play out their subplots, this could be quite a marvel.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan