Ever had one of those moments with someone special – or maybe just someone new – where the whole world seems to slowly stop, and the moment you’re in seems to be the only thing worth anything in the whole world? Ever had one of those moments where it’s like love – or bliss – has just stepped into your life? Ever felt truly in love, and then so utterly hurt afterwards that the moment of bliss, the world stopping and all that worth just disappears? Midsummer (A Play With Songs) by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre stirs up all these dormant feelings that we all know are buried somewhere inside and leaves its audience somewhere floating on cloud nine, blissfully full of laughter and love for each other (and dreading the day we get heart broken too).
Midsummer… has done the rounds several times over when it comes to theatres, from the Soho Theatre, to the Traverse Theatre, and now for a limited run at the Tricycle. It’s easy to see why this play complete with songs is back to entertain London audiences, it is written and presented with such charm and allure that you would have to have a heart of stone to not feel warmed to the somewhat tragic and lost Bob and Helena, the protagonists to this play. Bob is a 35 year old, full time member of an underground criminal gang and is questioning “is this it?”. Helena is a 35 year old, full time work hard, party harder gal who seeks the attention of a married man who can’t find the “right time” for her. Both are looking for something new, something to shake up their world, and maybe even a bit of love along the way, Midsummer… is their story, set in the beautiful (and wet) city of Edinburgh.
The great thing about Greig and McIntyre’s play is its unpredictability, you feel as if you’re just starting to get the hang of the dynamics of the piece, or even the characters before suddenly it all changes. If you get sick of the acoustic guitars they change to electric, you’re sick of the electric they give you ukeleles. The third person dialogue which dominates the opening of the show, shifts dramatically to first and even second person, the third wall is built, smashed and rebuilt again. Even the plot seems to shift under the weight of Greig’s writing, but this is all somewhat natural. This unpredictability and versatility makes it hard to pin down exactly what it is about Midsummer… that leaves you giddy, but it does and I’m grateful for it.
As the two actors and protagonists to the play, Cora Bissett (Helena) and Matthew Pidgeon (Bob) work effortlessly between characters, playing guitars, singing acapella and keeping the audience on their toes. They are relentless in the quick paced dialogue, shifting from third to first person with such ease and fun that it’s not a play you’re watching, but friends – lovers? – telling us their ‘how-we-met story’.
Bissett is likeable on every level, her voice rises above in the songs, her level of characterisation during the changing of characters is excellent and she portrays a tramp with no teeth hilariously. Pidgeon gives a more rugged approach to the play, he is cheeky, fun and even took a moment to laugh at an audience member who seemed pained by his appearance “I know, right!”. Bissett and Pidgeon feed off each other and give us a heartening, energised and quite frankly phenomenal hour and 45 minutes of theatre. It’s not often a play with two actors can hold the attention of the audience and keep them laughing for so long.
Despite my praise of Midsummer… there is something about it that I can’t quite put my finger on that is eating away at me slightly. Whilst the jokes were good and were laugh out loud material, and whilst the plot shifted and changed, and the staging was adapted for new uses… it makes me wonder if it was all too good? It’s as if Greig and McIntyre have produced something rather brilliant and tried to make it even better, leaving Midsummer… slightly off balance, perhaps trying too hard to be good. This is, of course, a personal thing, and those around me loved it, and I did honestly find much hilarity in the characters and situations.
Is Midsummer… worth seeing? Yes. Is Midsummer… laugh out loud good? Yes. Does Midsummer… make you want to jump on the next boat to Europe to go busking just because you can? Yes it does! So get your guitars, and bring along the people you love, be it friends or family, and enjoy a wonderful portrayal of Edinburgh live from the comfort of the Tricycle Theatre – you’ll be a fool to miss this.
Midsummer (A Play With Songs) is playing at the Tricycle Theatre until 29th January 2011. Tickets can be brought viCoa the website here.