Written by Tom Casling
Directed by Morag Simpson
Sometimes it takes a drastic change in your routine to appreciate what life you have. And for Richard Simpson, who spends his days at the beck and call of worry and strife, life is about to take a bit of a turn. He’s already stressing about his new job interview, and entering his fifties his mood is already in a touch of the doldrums as he frets about his weight and health. But to top it all off – Richard receives some rather distressing news: he apparently died three days ago in a hit-and-run incident. It’s just a shame no one told him or his wife, Lynn, this fact.
Tom Casling’s Alter Ego enjoys taking its time, so much so that it comes over as being a touch more dated than it is – but it contains a natural sense of storytelling with enough twists and turns to satiate the audience’s interest. What holds this community piece from Saughtonhall Drama Group together is in the performances, and the direction, both of which manage to capture the beats of Casling’s writing, while fending off some of the more stagnating moments. There’s some genuinely riveting humour – both physical and in delivery, from leads Scott Kerr and Eleanor Watson who bring warmth to Richard and Lynn. Kerr’s vexations are warranted, balanced out by Watson’s loving loyalty, but with a killer line delivery whenever Lynn is pushed.
Elements of a more sinister identity theft arise amidst the comedy, even beginning to stray into an exhilarating act one closing reveal. It’s a shame this reveal is quite quickly negated in the shorter second act, meaning the audience sees less of copper duo DI Stott and Sergeant Foster, played with a genuinely pleasurable deadpan delivery from John Webster and Alan Moonie – Webster, in particular, walking straight from a Grace set. Their presence is a welcome deviation from the marital troubles Lynn and Richard have been having, and this detour opens the play up to its remarkably touching and earnest finale.
Morag Simpson’s straightforward direction uplifts some of Casling’s slower moments of writing, which plague areas of the script. Speeding things up are the brief scenes of additional characters to inject some life – pun intended. And who better to do this than a pair of Cooperative undertakers here to collect the still-living Richard. Murray Petrie and Judith Petrie bring a fair few laughs, Murray’s delivery on fine form throughout, and leaning into the absurdity of it all. As too is the brief cameo from Jack Simpson playing both the postman’s voice-over and Richard’s friend Steven, with a bit of a twinkle in their eye for Lynn. They’re also benefiting from Simpson’s tight control of a relatively small space – nothing feels too claustrophobic, and the entire show is controlled with an understanding of the movements and changes.
What does aid tremendously in these small spaces is a solid series of set pieces which flip between the couple’s lounge and a police interrogation room – constructed by Keith Wilson to be effective and authentic. The convincing and everyday set works as a blank canvas for the only thing which should be over the top to flourish: the comedy. And Gill Calvey as Lynn’s mother Gladys dials this to the highest of levels. Adorning themselves with full mourning gear and a rather amusing sign to protest her daughter and son-in-law’s incarceration, Calvey’s enthusiasm more than makes up for any line fluffs other performers may have.
Easily one of the most welcoming of communities, the Saughtonhall Drama Group not only continues an extended warm invitation to returnees and newcomers – but does so while presenting a thoroughly entertaining evening of solid performance. A real treat of an occasion, the sense of support and enjoyment for their craft emanates long after the curtain falls, leaving audiences curious as to their next Saughtonhall treat.
A Real Treat
Alter Ego runs at Saughtonhall United Reformed Church until April 22nd. Wednesday – Friday at 19.30pm, with a matinee on Saturday at 14.30pm.
Runs for two hours and five minutes, with one interval. Tickets may be obtained here.
Photo Credit – Sarah Howley