Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
If there’s ever a good time to start touring a rom-com, it’s got to be February. In typical “love could be around every corner” style, Alistair Rutherford’s latest play follows magician Tommy (Philip Kingscott) and a grumpy and stood-up Alison (Anna Guthrie) as they struggle to get on with their unsuitably matched and self-involved partners. As each relationship falls apart, they begin to wonder if there might have been a magical romance right in front of them all along.
Rutherford’s script starts promisingly, but even for a play that only lasts an hour its second half really does drag. Much of the comedy lies in the ridiculousness of the situations, from a “romantic” date at a sci-fi convention to a noncommittal boyfriend who refuses to drive his car in the rain, which all feels very contrived; while it might get the sea of grey-haired pensioners chuckling, it certainly won’t get anyone as young as the twenty-something actors holding their bellies with laughter. There’s very little affection displayed between any of the characters, which makes Alice and Tommy’s final realisation that they should be together quite a tough set-up to believe.
As the creator of Peapod Productions, one can’t help but feel that Kingscott has been a little too self-indulgent in casting himself in the lead role. Either he’s an astonishingly persuasive actor, or he’s really just a bit of a geek playing a geek, then pretending to be another geek. Neither Guthrie nor Kingscott make their secondary characters noticeably different from their main ones; changing into a suit or donning a feather boa just doesn’t cut it. Such fervent over-acting displayed by both – more overtly by Guthrie – gives the whole production an amateur feel with an air of OTT drama school about it, which is completely out of place in the intimate cafe setting.
The piece is rescued somewhat by director Andy Corelli’s subtley creative and stripped-back set, with plenty of quirky little bits of audience participation – from pouring water from a toy watering can onto Guthrie’s hair, to a storm of beer mats all thrown at the performers on cue. But this does little to distract from an otherwise mediocre production, and falls far short of igniting that familiar February flame.