Michael Cox reviews a performance with terrific production values but a lacklustre script.
Citizens Theatre’s production of Cuttin’ a Rug starts the moment you walk into the building: the 50s music is cranked up and staff are dressed as if ready for a 70-year time warp. The playlist you hear in the actual theatre space is rockabilly appropriate, and the short black and white film at the start about Paisley’s place in an optimistic fluffy future all set the tone for an authentically fun evening filled with nostalgia and good laughs.
Too bad, then, that John Byrne’s script just doesn’t work.
It isn’t that it’s bad. Byrne’s script has great moments of drama and is peppered with wit and clever insights from the era. But with shallow characters and only traces of a plot, the play struggles to leave much of an impression in its two-hour running time.
Rug is actually a sequel to Byrne’s rightfully celebrated play The Slab Boys, and as a companion piece it’s actually fine. It manages to flesh the characters out and gives a sprinkle of humanity to some. However, this dividend is not paid to anyone unfamiliar with that first play, making for an evening that is easy enough to follow but difficult to care.
By no stretch of the imagination is this down to the production values: this is well-crafted in every sense. Director Caroline Paterson keeps the pace and energy brisk, letting jokes hang in the air just long enough for a comfortable reaction and giving breathing space to moments of pathos. Kenny Miller’s design, along with Grant Anderson’s lighting, look terrific. And the cast are top-notch. Each actor has at least one moment to shine, and as an ensemble they have a wonderful interplay with each other.
But in the end it all comes back to Byrne’s lacklustre script. Like a dish that’s presented well but lacks seasoning, Cuttin’ a Rug looks great but tastes bland.
Cuttin’ a Rug performs at the Citizens Theatre until March 4 before transferring to the Edinburgh King’s Theatre from March 7-11.