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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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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Theatre review: Perfect Days

Published in the Guardian
Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Three stars

The hair salon co-owned by Barbs Marshall in Liz Lochhead's midlife-crisis comedy is called Razor City. That's not an accident. When Perfect Days premiered at Edinburgh's Traverse in 1998, we were still adjusting to Glasgow's post-capital of culture makeover. A city once best known for gang violence had been rebranded as a fashionable hangout for the cappuccino and wine-bar set.
Thus it is that 39-year-old entrepreneur Marshall lives in a warehouse conversion in Merchant City, a town-centre invention of the urban planners. That's not the only way she is a product of her times. Marshall typifies a generation of 1990s women who had chosen to delay marriage and children in favour of a high-pressure career – in her case, as a daytime television celebrity as well as a trendy hairdresser.
It means that although this belated revival of the play has been given only a light-touch update, its move to the present day detaches it from one of Lochhead's original ideas. Likably played by Helen Logan, Marshall is now rather more ordinary; she's less the symbol of a flashy era in which image triumphed over substance, than an everywoman hitting a stalemate in her relationships. You can picture her as a hairdresser, but not as a frothy TV star.
And just as the glitz has gone out of the play, so has much of the humour. The six-strong cast in Liz Carruthers's production has a good grasp of Lochhead's west-coast rhythms, but with the exception of Scott Armstrong as Marshall's gay friend Brendan, they hit too few of the laugh lines.
It turns Perfect Days into a surprisingly sober drama about the urge to have children and the challenge of keeping family bonds intact. It's still touching when Lochhead's plotlines come together in the closing scenes, exposing secrets and renewing friendships, but it's a slow build.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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