THEATRE / The racket sport: Paul Taylor reviews Simon Donald's new play The Life of Stuff at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Saturday 29 August 1992
The apparent ruler of the roost is Willie Dobie (excellent Duncan Duff), a champagne-swigging, drug-snorting yuppie who has made good by doing bad. He owns tenement blocks stuffed with 'dolies' from whom he extracts exorbitant rents (paid for by the DHSS) and little favours , in return for him helping them out of the spots of 'bother' he has created in the first place. When the play opens, he has bumped off the leader of a rival racket and a party is in the offing in his newly acquired warehouse.
Flitting around the various floors and roof of this establishment, John Mitchell's impishly paced, beautifully acted production introduces you to the various flies entangled in Dobie's web. In the basement, in nothing but his underpants, and making a cack-handed attempt to shave off his sudsy hair, the most sympathetic of these is Frazer (a wonderfully desperate Brian McCardie), who is horrified to learn that the van he incinerated, supposedly so that Dobie could pick up the insurance, actually contained the stunned body of the rival. A murderer malgre lui, he is sweating on the reward of two tickets to Ibiza where he and his gay partner, Raymond, are to start a new career as exotic dancers.
The only bit of Raymond we get to see, however, is his toe which has been hacked off by Dobie's eczema-ridden henchman Leonard (Stuart McQuarrie), a youth who likes to practise with his Black and Decker on the human face. The detached toe is one of several props that are deployed with the hilarious tastelessness of the corpse's false teeth in Loot. Leonard's scab-infested articles of clothing, for example, give rise to a number of healthily sick jokes, not least when one of the girls Dobie has invited to the party is encouraged to use his cast-off Y-fronts to mop up a drug-induced nose bleed. Not knowing of his 'dermal plight', she apologises for the stain she's made and asks, 'Is it okay if I keep them?'
There is often a friendly, gregarious feel to the music of Donald's dialogue that plays interestingly against the brutal unsociability of what is being conveyed. Here is Leonard talking to someone who's just noticed Raymond's chopped-off digit: 'Only a toe. Well he was in his jim jams and I thought he'd need all his fingers for stirring and stuff' (Raymond being a chemist who has been pressurised to manufacture drugs for the party). 'My, my, haha,' says Dobie, wrapping a proprietary arm round the two younger girls he's lured to the warehouse with the promise of sex and drugs. 'It's great to see that a lifetime's dead-end disappointment and unemployability hasn't dented your sense of humour'. An underlying refusal to despair offsets the bleak inferno-like ending. The main villain's vision of mystical unity - that everything in the universe is made of the same stuff and men are composed of 'stardust' - is contradicted by his own vicious actions, but the play itself does not quite discredit it. One remembers that the two girls are not burned to death but head off home sharing nothing more addictive than a bag of wine gums.
Booking: 031-228 1404.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
These Harry Potter lipsticks are sparking all sorts of controversy with Hogwarts fans
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Hunted: Channel 4 to test 'surveillance Britain' by taking Big Brother to sinister new lengths
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs