Neither God nor Angel

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


PIES and pints in hand, we’re spies on the wall of a royal chamber, witnessing one of those “uneasy lies the head that wears the crown” dilemmas that so often beset kings when they’re on-stage. The king in question is James the Sixth of Scotland – and imminently the First of England, if he abandons the swithering, stands not upon the order of his going but goes at once . . . so to speak.

We’re not actually picking our way through Shakespearean-inflected oratory in Tim Barrow’s whimsical skim across the origins of a united kingdom, but rather the kind of joshing semi-Scots vernacular that would be at ease in a TV sitcom about a dodgy Glesca’ businessman and his naive, yet oddly astute, side-kick.

James (Jimmy Chisholm in voluminous nightgown and equally expansive swagger) has a headache – and it’s not because of the empty wine-bottles around him. He’s seen the balance sheets: England’s in as dire financial straits as Scotland – is the promise of better weather, more opulent palaces and more soigné courtiers, sufficient cause to leave the devils you know?

The arrival of William (Gavin Wright, in lean and lanky wise-fool mode) allows Barrow’s script, briskly directed by Ryan Alexander Dewar, to mix a little light social commentary with the prevailing comedy of opposite perspectives. A fresh bottle of wine sees William, the unemployed servant, dishing up the kind of home truths about James’s unpopularity that would ordinarily lead to beheading. But James, beset by insecurities, is lonely enough to swallow William’s incautious remarks along with yet more Rhenish bevvy.

Chisholm and Wright are a brilliant broth of a double act, fairly playing off each other for the good old-fashioned laughs that sustain this show.

Sponsored by Heineken