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Theatre Review: Tamum Shud ****

Anna Burnside reviews 'a smart and grown-up show' that showcases 'an impressive achievement for a first-time playwright'.

Keene is a perjink little chap in an old-fashioned mac: Walter White transported to 1950s Uddingston. Fussy and waspish, he is guarded about what he actually does but the coat, heavy hints about “our profession” and business meeting in a greasy spoon, suggest that he operates in the secret world.

At the start, the action in Thomas Jancis’s three-hander is as tightly belted as the overcoats everyone wears. They hide behind newspapers and under hats - although Amelia Isaac Jones takes hers off when she’s called upon to be Keene’s apple-stewing mother.

But as the story widens out, they lose their coats and let out more of their characters. Keene even swaps his well-polished brogues for fluffy slippers. 

There’s a lot of plot packed into this hour, neatly narrated and driven by Stephen Docherty’s Keene. Turns out that one of his cold cases, in a nuclear testing plant in the Australian village of Woomera, has heated up again. 

He relives his encounter with Adam Buksh's Somerton Man, found dead on a beach, and the mysterious nurse who guarded the papers that went missing. 

Jancis writes great dialogue, capturing the period’s attitudes and vocabulary and revealing Keene’s mummy issues through the medium of a boiled egg.

Even the design cleverly evokes the 1950s - a dyed sheet backdrop becomes a makeshift screen for the primitive artwork displayed via an overhead projector. 

It also stands in for a light and is used to great effect with a bowl of water.

This is a smart and grown-up show that uses the tiny stage and minimal props to great effect. It sags slightly towards the end - there are few places to hide in a whodunnit with three characters. But it’s still an impressive achievement for a first-time playwright.

Tamum Shud performs at A Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor until April 6, 2024. It will also perform at The Gaiety in Ayr April 18-20, 2024.

Photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Tags: theatre

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