Theatre review: No Direction
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: No Direction at Assembly George Square (Venue 3), reviewed by Sue Wilson
Marking the directorial debut of Morecambe star Bob Golding, Albert Welling’s play features its author alongside fellow stage and screen veteran Ronnie Toms, both of whom charge breathlessly onstage as a pair of ageing burglars, after an apparently narrow escape from the scene of their latest job.
“Apparently”, though, is the operative word, for little is as it initially seems in this cunningly constructed drama, which switchbacks between various levels of artifice and reality, questioning the nature of both and their relationship to one another, in a manner occasionally reminiscent of Anthony Shaffer’s classic twist-fest Sleuth, immortalised on screen by Laurence Olivier and Michael Caine.
There’s a strong self-referential element, examining the internal and external processes involved when actors are creating a performance – and the extent to which all of us, at times, resort to acting in our dealings with others.
And as alluded to in the title, another question addressed is whether some kind of outside guiding perspective, as from a director, is more of an advantage or a restriction, in theatre or in life. The resulting overall tone is an interesting, if not always entirely satisfactory, mix of playfulness with darker undercurrents.
The above description is deliberately vague, since much of the pleasure to be had from the piece derives from the surprises it springs.
Welling’s and Toms’ performances are similarly rewarding, each expertly negotiating his multifaceted role via fluent distinctions in accent and body language.
Not content with this, Welling as dramatist also seeks to explore the dynamics of conflict, betrayal and revenge within a long-term male friendship, an objective which proves less than wholly compatible with those comic twists and turns. The alternating nature of both parts precludes the depth of characterisation needed to support this more emotional or psychological agenda, at least in an hour’s duration, while the structural demands of springing those aforementioned surprises also weaken its narrative plausibility.
Until 26 August. Today 2:50pm
More info: No Direction is at Assembly George Square
Originally published in The Scotsman