Cuttin’ a Rug

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

Mary Brennan 

four stars

Paisley Town Hall, December 19th 1957 – time for the employees of Stobo’s carpet manufacturers to get the glad rags on, forget the affrays of work and get in the mood for the staff dance. If you’ve previously seen The Slab Boys, then you’ll know who the main players are in this second instalment of John Byrne’s pithy, witty and perceptive trilogy about small-town lives and youthful dreams in post-war times. Frankly, it helps if you know where these characters are coming from, but if you don’t... well, the one-liners are pure bobby-dazzlers while the sense of fault-lines opening up under the old order – and not just at Stobo’s – adds a wistful piquancy to this vignette of a fading era.

That said, there’s never going to be an era where inter-personal rivalries don’t make for cutting put-downs, attempts at one-up-manship and even acts of petty malice - Byrne’s observational comedy comes up smiling bright in this revival, directed by Caroline Paterson and designed (with a proper quiff of period style) by Kenny Miller. With no real tension in the action, beyond the hiccup of a punch being thrown, or a partner swapped, the emphasis falls on the characters to keep us involved, and - early days yet, of course – there are points where the delivery isn’t hitting Byrne’s highly effective rhythmic stride. Paul James Corrigan’s Spanky is already into the necessary groove, his walk as well as his talk affecting the swagger of a wannabe cool dude, while Ryan Fletcher’s Phil would be his well-matched partner in nippy banter if he loosened up his body language. Lovely cameos from Anne Lacey’s Miss Walkinshaw, whose hopes, memories and frock are all stuck in the past and from the two living dolls, Lucille (Helen Mallon) and Bernadette (Louise McCarthy), whose mutual sniping is a treat.