Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Overcoat

Adapted by Catherine Grosvenor from the short story by Nikolai Gogol
ACE Production
Pleasance Dome

This is a real treat, Gogol's classic story translated to Edinburgh running from the late war years to date.

Finnish company ACE Productions have employed a Scottish cast of three men and three women to tell the tale. They do so usually sharing narration in very short bursts and supplementing the text with physical theatre techniques as well as silly wigs.

They tell the tale of Akaky Akakievich, born to be a bank clerk and charmingly played by Billy Mack. We follow his arc from before birth to the afterlife and, considering his taciturn silences and bland existence, the 80 minutes is hilarious and thought provoking.

What this production does so well is provide a mordant view of technological development and the ups and downs of the capitalist dream, through the eyes of a representative nobody.

So unadventurous is our anti-hero that for decades he wears the togs that he was born in. However, following a stream of rejections from the office big-haired blonde and in the face of the imminent collapse of his familiar overcoat, Akaky suddenly realises that fame, fortune and happiness are only a new coat away.

The new coat transforms his life, briefly making him a capitalist entrepreneur, until he is mugged and returned to staid normality.

This company has built a superb ensemble, under the direction of Aleksis Meaney, who work together perfectly as we race through the decades, change marked by new technology in the office and new management. Sadly, these captains of industry seem all too prone to kicking the bucket, literally.

The Overcoat has previously been adapted for the stage by Peter Brook and the two versions could hardly be further apart. However for joie de vivre, this one is as good as it gets.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher