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Theatre review

Fred and Alice

Fred and Alice

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

You laugh out loud - of course you do, because there's an infectious doolally energy to the way Fred and Alice go about things. But then, and sometimes in the same moment, there's a prickle of tears that has you swallowing hard because what makes Fred and Alice special to each other is often tagged as "special needs" by the expert caring community. As children, and now as adults, they're locked into a system where other, well-intentioned, people decide what's best for them. Fred and Alice, however, have their own bolshie ideas on that - and moving out, being together, is the dream they share. Just like every couple who meet and fall in love.

Irish writer/director John Sheehy doesn't put specific labels on the learning difficulties and behavioral tics that prompt Fred and Alice to cope with stressful situations by retreating into their own personal realms of fixations. His focus is on the individuals inside those apparent limitations, and on the relationship that takes them outside the institutionalised box and towards a home and a life of their own. The home, by the way, is an on-stage Wendy House where their inept attempts at domesticity are hilariously depicted with a droll, unsentimental honesty. That melding of comedy with uncondescending frankness is what gives Sheehy's script its emotional curve balls, but it's the remarkable performances from Ciaran Bermingham and Cora Fenton that deliver the full whammy. His Fred, lumbering, ungainly, antisocial, has music in his soul: rhythms, sounds, structures simply pour out of him. Alice, eternally girly, is hyperactive with her own compulsions - in her case, it's numbers. But when, tennis rackets/ air guitars in hand, they rock the universe - or Wembley, their imagined venue of choice - all's right with their world. Please some-one, tour this round Scotland.

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