Meteors Shower by Steve Martin – St Ninians

Written by Steve Martin

Directed by David McCallum

Rating: 3 out of 5.

From the mind of one of America’s most influential comedians, Steve Martin comes an unequivocally surreal comedic venture in time manipulation, middle-class suburbia, and juxtaposition galore. Modelled to fit into the unsuspecting nature of the early nineties aesthetic of a home in Southern California, complete with a bar-lounge, outdoor loungers, and a brand-new cosey kitchen: why, it’s the perfect abode to host new friends, take in the beauty of the stars, and forge new memories. Or perhaps re-live old ones time and again.

What else is there to do in nineties America, but throw a dinner party? For Corky and Norm, it’s a chance to connect with people, and there’s no finer excuse to make new friends than invite them over to watch a meteor storm scattered across a pristine sky. From the one-liners to the droll use of surreal narrative, Meteor Shower is undeniably a product of Martin – it portrays all of their hallmarks for better and worse.

Other than finding the couple deep in a formal stance of marriage counselling techniques, which, while played for laughs, Corky and Norm do possess a genuine amount of sincerity and believability to the pairing – Mags McPherson and Danny Farrimond capturing a natural sense of care between the pair as they recite the phrases and collated buzz words passed down from therapist.

Conceptually, the idea that Corky and Norm are in such deniable repression, that it will take the heavens themselves to come crashing down to unleash an inner self is fascinating. One which director David McCallum rises to, and both McPherson and Farrimond take great care in not overloading so early into the show. Playing both their roles expertly, the gentility of Farrimond makes Norm all the more likeable, think an even softer variant of Tom Hanks, while McPherson is often running the show with her superb delivery both curious and put out to their soon-to-be arriving guests, neither of whom she knows, only going by Norm’s little experience of the husband on the golf course.

Testing the fragility of their relationship, aiming for “total collapse”, are the mildly other-worldly Laura and Gerald, carried with a remarkable panache for over-playing while remaining entirely plausible by Edith Peers and Colin McPherson. With their introduction, Meteor Shower takes a grim, nihilistic shape of the absurd. Anything can happen, and thankfully Edinburgh Theatre Arts have talented performers and a director able to guide us through the peculiarities.

McPherson struts with such a fragile alpha-male persona that it’s worth checking he hasn’t marked his territory in Norm and Corky’s home. Pushing their performances to the fullest the pair make every attempt to show how subdued Norm’s commentary on their personalities was: ramping things up in all respects. Peers’ Laura takes the sultry approach, sharp barbs casually tossed like grenades to Corky, but it’s nothing in comparison to her plans for poor sweet Norm. The pair from the offset is the antithesis of Corky and Norm, but you wouldn’t be far off in sourcing something recognisable in their cynicism.

It’s carried remarkably by McCallum’s direction – smooth and rather gifted at ensuring the surrealist nature of the script is controlled with a firm enough grasp that audiences are still able to follow the plot as Martin’s script begins to manipulate time. It works well with Finlay Black split set to separate two main rooms of action, each lit well by Ian Cunningham – who even manages to aid in evoking the titular meteor shower with aid from Danny Farrimond’s sound design.

The unfortunate reality is that even with four engaging performances, with some incredible accent work and physical comedy – Martin’s plot and storytelling is messy: particularly the plot mechanic of time manipulation is paradoxically under, yet somehow also over-utilised. It’s incorporated just enough to cause confusion, not frequently (or tidily) for it to be familiar to the audience. The one-liners which elevate Martin’s comedic career are noticeable in abundance, but Meteor Shower utilises comedy as a driving mechanism for the narrative, rather than a complimentary hors d’oeuvres alongside its engaging characters and conceptual ideas.

There is no question about the enjoyment of the show, performed exceedingly well by accomplished professionals. In aspects, Martin’s Meteor Shower is remarkably clever in its pursuit of absurdist comedy – but structurally aspects of storytelling muddy the affair. But the grit, determination and skill of Edinburgh Theatre Arts ensure that this is a splendidly performed piece, which heightens the scenes that work, calming the oddities, and executing a deliciously surreal serving of a rarely performed piece.

Engaging Performances

Meteor Shower by Steve Martin runs at St Ninian’s Hall until Saturday 22nd. Wednesday – Saturday at 19.30pm with a Saturday matinee at 14.30pm.
Running time – One hour and thirty minutes with one interval. Suitable for ages 12+
Tickets begin from £12.000 and may be obtained here.

Photo Credit – John McLinden


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