Published in the Guardian
Six Black Candles
When Des Dillon's comedy premiered at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum, it had such brash popular appeal that I predicted it would be fewer than five years before we saw it again. That was in 2004. A full seven years later, it has taken the author himself to get Six Black Candles back on stage (not counting the theatre in Kiev where it is still in rep). He has reunited much of the original nine-strong cast and drafted in John Binnie to direct.
Inspired by Dillon's family, the play is a vivid portrait of six working-class Catholic sisters who, joined by their mother and grandmother, perform a black mass to cast a hex over Stacie Gracie, a 19-year-old babysitter who has run off with one of their husbands. Their conflicting personalities are a source of fun: at one extreme, the upwardly mobile teacher with the fancy new car; at the other, the one whose son is in a secure unit after a hammer attack. There is even more fun in the way they set aside their differences for the important business of black magic.
Once the new parish priest drops by, they slip all too easily from the chants and pentagrams of the occult into the blessings and incantations of Catholicism. These women make no distinction between faith and credulity, and are dismayed to find the priest does.
Despite the pedigree of this production, however, it is not the stomping return to former glories I had hoped. The comic rhythm is off, making the first half seem no more than a setup for the second, and the ending feel inconsequential. It still pays dividends in the funny confrontation between sisters and priest, but its claim to be a guaranteed popular hit does not look as watertight. (Pic: Marc Marnie)
© Mark Fisher 2011
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