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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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Monday, May 23, 2011

King of Scotland, theatre review 2

Published in the Guardian

King of Scotland

3 stars

Tommy McMillan is "as thick as shite, an ugly wee bastard and as common as muck". He is also 28 years unemployed, which makes him an ideal candidate for a job with the department of social inclusion. What better poster boy for a progressive government ministry than a man plucked from the ranks of the long-term unemployed?

Thus in Iain Heggie's free reworking of Gogol's Diary of a Madman, McMillan becomes a satirical thorn in the side of an establishment that likes the platitudinous headlines about social cohesion rather more than the reality of mixing with the lower orders. Told entirely from McMillan's perspective, the monologue is the scabrous view of an outsider looking in. He is convinced he has been welcomed into mainstream life, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

His case is not strengthened by his behaviour. What start off like surreal digressions – such as his whimsical belief in talking dogs – become the warped fantasies of a deranged mind. He is delusional enough to misinterpret a politically motivated greeting from an MSP as an invitation to become king, a misunderstanding that emphasises the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Despite actor Jonathan Watson's credentials as a comic performer and his feel for the Glasgow patter, he shows particular sensitivity to the portrayal of mental illness. He has a slightly-too-big suit and walks as if the hanger's still in it – a man in need of our sympathy.

It is a touching interpretation, but it means the production – directed by the playwright – is muted as comedy and too ribald for serious drama.


© Mark Fisher 2011
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