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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Chooky Brae, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

The Chooky Brae

Tron, Glasgow
3 out of 5

Daniel Jackson has a gift for the kind of knock-'em-dead speech, usually followed by the character flouncing off stage, that leaves the audience no option but to burst into applause. He did it in The Wall when Sally Reid first played the guileless Norma, then a 14-year-old, who brought the house down with her indignant volleys. And he does it again in The Chooky Brae, the concluding part of his coming-of-age trilogy, in which Jordan Young, as Norma's secret lover, delivers a ludicrous diatribe about circus monkeys that brings the show to a standstill.

Such sparkling writing elevates this bittersweet Christmas comedy above the routine domestic sitcom it threatens to become. Recalling Lee Hall's Cooking with Elvis with its abrasive wit and gags about disability, it is about a mismatched family suffering the consequences of their poor life choices. Norma, now 18, is a young mother who prefers her baby's uncle to his father. Scott Hoatson's Barry is a university dropout starting to think there is more to life than video games. With his apparent stroke, their father (Stewart Porter) has taken hilariously desperate measures to make amends with the family he has neglected.

With the same world-weary humour he showed in Edinburgh fringe hit My Romantic History, Jackson fashions a funny festive comedy that remains feelgood despite its adolescent bolshieness. It seems improbable that such a dysfunctional family could ever get along, but our thirst for resolution makes us delighted they will try. Directed by Kenny Miller for Borderline, the pace of the show falters with all the door-slamming to-ing and fro-ing on Neil Haynes's dominating set – but its big heart wins out.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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