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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Sound of My Voice

© Mark Fisher

An edited version of this review appeared in The Guardian

The Sound of My Voice
Citizens', Glasgow
[**** FOUR STARS]
Emerging a few years after Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City and predating TV's Mad Men, Ron Butlin's short novel is part of a subgenre of alcohol-fuelled, mid-life crises in the workplace stories. But where the American equivalents are set in the glamorous worlds of magazines and advertising agencies, Butlin's debut revolves around a biscuit factory. It's a typically British white-collar setting – dull, downbeat and self-important – that helps explain, with wry humour, the hero's descent into an alcoholic breakdown.

In Jeremy Raison's good-looking studio adaptation, a welcoming tray of custard creams sets the mood somewhere between triviality and desperation. Morris Magellan is a family man and successful company executive, skilled enough at his inane job to disguise his dependency on brandy, even if the strain is beginning to show at home. Played by a dexterous Billy Mack, squirming in his suit like an inebriated Lee Evans, he is all charm and charisma, despite the self-loathing. It's a fine, fluid performance that manages to make a repellent character endlessly watchable.

In his adaptation, Raison emphasises Magellan's dislocation by casting a fresh-faced Rebecca McQuillan not only as wife, secretary, daughter and colleague, but also as an echoing inner voice, capturing both the sense of drunken blurriness and, more importantly, the lost child hiding within the frightened adult.

What's missing, perhaps inevitably in 2008, is the taste of self-interested mid-80s Thatcherite greed – a cultural context to make this more than the story of one man's personal struggle with the bottle. Equally, however, it avoids coming across as an advert for Alcoholics Anonymous, even if Butlin's flashbacks to a fraught father-son relationship seem a little pat. Thanks to superb lighting and sound by Graham Sutherland on Jason Southgate's off-kilter mirrored set, the show creates a vivid theatrical journey with the simplest of means.
Mark Fisher
Until June 7. Box office: 0141 429 0022.

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