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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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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

My Romantic History, theatre review



Published in The Guardian
4 Stars

Borderline theatre company is brandishing a lethal comedic weapon with DC Jackson's workplace rom-com. The first gag comes after less than 10 sentences and, from then on in, the laughs strike home with machine-gun efficiency. Jemima Levick's production is like a standoff between actors and audience, a tense exchange of laugh-lines from the stage and guffaws from the stalls with neither party giving an inch.

It proves that last year's debut production of the play by the Bush and Sheffield theatres was no fluke and that Jackson's comedy has staying power. This time round it's given a more stripped-back staging in front of the large square panels of Lisa Sangster's set, which doubles as open-plan office, one-bedroom flat and boozy bar room, with a brief diversion to Glasgow's George Square for a painful round of samba drumming.

Jackson's premise is simple. Tom, played with everyman charm by Garry Collins, is the new boy at work, where he finds himself the centre of sexual attention. Alarmed by the enthusiasm of his colleague Amy, sharply observed by Jessica Tomchak, he switches from "Don Juan in Dennistoun" to "a romantic Gandhi", using passive resistance to extricate himself from their affair.

The tables turn when we hear Amy's side of the story. She reveals Tom's standoffish cynicism to be a front for his fumbling vulnerability, while her own eager-to-please demeanour is a cover for a harder heart. Only Katrina Bryan's relentlessly cheery Sasha, in spite of her new age tendencies, seems to have got things right.

Spiced with hilarious observational detail and, in Levick's production, an anthropologist's eye for body language, it is a comedy of bad manners and embarrassments. The only shame is that Jackson denies us the happy ending we long for in favour of a bittersweet resolution that's too much like real life.

© Mark Fisher 2011

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