Pitlochry Festival Theatre
1 out of 5
Let us agree: theatre does not have to be about big ideas. Let us accept it can be a brilliantly executed artifice, as with Michael Frayn's Noises Off, also playing this season at Pitlochry. Let us acknowledge it can be lightweight, frivolous and throwaway – fun for fun's sake.
But having allowed ourselves that, can we also make a case for Rough Crossing? What is the purpose, whether it be ambitious or modest, of Tom Stoppard's free reworking of Ferenc Molnár's The Play at the Castle? Is there any reason it should exist?
Set on a transatlantic liner in the early 1930s, Rough Crossing is about a musical playwriting partnership who have to knock their new work into shape before its Broadway premiere. The only problem – and how tediously minor a problem it is – is that the composer's fiancee, who is also the leading lady, appears to be rekindling her interest in the leading man. If they can persuade the composer he has overheard a script rehearsal and not an amorous heart-to-heart, they just might get the show finished.
There is nothing especially wrong with Richard Baron's production that a little less shouting and less of a mismatch in the casting wouldn't cure, yet even by the standards of daft comedy, the play simply fails to entertain. Once Stoppard has fielded a few meta-theatrical ideas, strung out a joke about a speech impediment and endlessly repeated a gag about the waiter always getting the writer's drink, we are left with nothing but a bunch of self-satisfied toffs, a bad play-within-a-play and an inconsequential romantic tiff.
You could write it off as a dull night out, if the play didn't seem so smugly enamoured of its own emptiness. That makes it not just pointless, but offensive, too.
In rep until 13 October. Box office: 01796 484626.
© Mark Fisher 2010
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