• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Theatre reviews Perfect Days Pitlochry Festival Theatre Various dates until October 16 The Pokey Hat Seen in Alexandra Park, Glasgow, run ended; Touring until August 3

Liz Lochhead, Scotland's Makar and one of our leading dramatists, has always had a talent for catching us unawares.

This is as true of her theatre work - which includes clever, witty and vibrant adaptations of the likes of Euripides and Moliere - as it is of what Carol Ann Duffy calls the "undated freshness" of her poetry.

It's certainly true of Perfect Days, directed in a fine new production for Pitlochry Festival Theatre by Liz Carruthers. In Lochhead's much-loved romantic comedy, Glaswegian celebrity hair stylist Barbs races against her biological clock in a frenetic attempt to become pregnant through artificial insemination, with a little help from her gay friend, Brendan.

Ever since it premiered at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh in 1998, the play has overturned the expectations of those (myself included) who generally consider the romcom a tired and predictable theatrical genre.

Like all the best comedies, Perfect Days has a great deal going on under the surface. Barbs's ex, Davie (Alan Steele), is still on the scene; her loving and interfering mother, Sadie (Estrid Barton), is never far away; and her pal, Alice (Mairi Morrison), is overjoyed at being reunited with Grant (Ali Watt), the grown-up son she gave up when he was born.

In the hands of a lesser writer, the play would seem over-burdened, but Lochhead knits it all together seamlessly.

Helen Logan gives an energetic, perceptive and ultimately moving performance as Barbs. However, it's hard to imagine her having the comic and emotional impact she has without Scott Armstrong's hilarious and touching playing of Brendan (this is the actor's first season at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, and he is a real find for the Perthshire playhouse).

Enjoying strong performances across the cast - and updated for the internet age by Lochhead herself -this production is neatly designed by Frances Collier and directed with a tremendous sense of pace, freedom and precision by Carruthers.

Pace and precision are essentials in The Pokey Hat, the new family show by Glasgow-based children's theatre company Grinagog, touring this summer as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme. Performed splendidly by Louise Montgomery, Isabelle Joss and Ross Allan from inside an ice cream van, this delightful half-hour show is based upon interviews with people in the east end of Glasgow on the subjects of ice cream and the associated vans and parlours.

The show's three stories take us from a Glasgow tenement football incident (which is resolves by empty "ginger" bottles being exchanged for ice cream); to the ice cream parlour romance between Grandma and clumsy Grampa Giorgio from Barga in Tuscany; and, finally, a trip "doon the watter" to Rothesay. Each tale is told by way of fast and funny performance and wonderfully appropriate songs, ranging from comic Italian serenade and (that nostalgic favourite) The Day We Went To Rothesay O, to evocative new numbers (including an excellent homage to famous Scots-Italians) courtesy of composer Oliver Searle.

It is remarkable how much director Clare McGarry's production manages to squeeze into 30 minutes without ever feeling overloaded or badly structured. Everyone will have their own highlights but, some smashing ice cream-related puns notwithstanding, I enjoyed the exceedingly daft puppet show, entitled Cinderella And The Drapped Cone, in which the actors play the garish puppets.

Opening in Alexandra Park in Glasgow's east end, to an audience dominated by clearly appreciative local school children, The Pokey Hat is a beautiful little treat of a show.

Performance dates for Perfect Days can be found at pitlochry.org.uk. For tour dates for The Pokey Hat, visit grinagog.co.uk

Contextual targeting label: 
Arts and Entertainment

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

242133