SPANKY and the rest of the Slab Boys might be back in the Citizens Theatre’s latest take on John Byrne’s Cuttin’ A Rug, but this production is all about the girls, with great turns from Barbara Rafferty, Helen Mallon, Anne Lacey, and a show-stealing performance from Louise McCarthy.
The King’s, Leven Street
* * *
McCarthy is an actress cut from the same comic cloth as much loved Scottish talents Elaine C Smith and Jane McCarry.
Linked by classic tracks of the era, Cuttin’ A Rug is the second play in Byrne’s Slab Boys trilogy, which charts the working class lives of the staff working in the Slab Room of carpet manufacturers AF Stobo & Co.
Set in Paisley Town Hall in 1957, the boys and girls have been looking forward to the annual staff ball (the staffie).
Resplendent in their brothel creepers and slicked back DA hairstyles, Elvis wannabe Terry (played by a good-humoured Mark Barrett), Phil (Ryan Fletcher), Spanky (Paul-James Corrigan) and Hector (Scott Fletcher) are on the pull.
Likewise, the girls, in all their finery, are hoping to meet the man of their dreams.
It’s an age-old tale told by a storyteller who pens one-liners and word plays with a deft approach that never pulls a punch.
Brutally funny in places, there’s a joy in every line, never more so that when delivered as an arched ‘compliment’ to Anne Lacey’s beautifully fragile Miss Walkinshaw by Barbara Rafferty’s keenly waspish Sadie.
The language really zings, however, when trusted to Louise McCarthy’s Benadette, who has the perfect sparring partner in Helen Mallon’s glamorous but hard-faced Lucille.
The pair snipe, bitch and boast with effortless timing, imbuing Byrne’s lines with a comic rhythm and energy that heightens their impact.
Elsewhere, performances are less even. A tendency to play for laughs creates buffoonish caricatures that quickly irritate as truth is eschewed in favour of ham.
Two exceptions are Laurie Ventry’s much put upon gaffer, Willie Curry, and Shaun Miller’s nicely underplayed posh boy, Alan.
A play about the post war aspirations of the working class just as industry goes into a terminal decline, the tragedy and darkness of Byrne’s writing is never fully realised in this production, directed by Caroline Paterson, and by the end of the second act all focus has been lost.
Run ends tomorrow