IF James VI hadn’t been King, he’d have proved an admirable trooper, judging by the expletives spluttered forth at the top of Tim Barrow’s new play, running now at The Traverse as part of their A Play, A Pie and A Pint season.
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Traverse Theatre, Cambridge Street
In this bite-size drama, running a compact 55 minutes, it’s the 4th April, 1603. In his Holyrood chamber, King of Scots James VI is on the wine, ahead of journeying south to claim the English throne.
But should he go? He needs advice, political insight and reassurance... enter William, a street-wise chancer with a penchant for the King’s silver.
The more things change, the more they stay the same, that’s the message of the piece; the poor will always be stricken, the rich, whether banker or Lord, holding the power while struggling to reconcile the fact that wealth doesn’t always bring peace of mind and happiness.
If that all sounds a bit worthy, fear not, Barrow’s two-hander is a laugh out loud delight, as the verbal sparring of Jimmy Chisholm’s James VI and Gavin Wright’s pithy servant, volley crisp one liners and poignant observations back and forth
As a King in conflict, Chisholm is untouchable, capturing perfectly the Monarch’s turmoil as he grasps for an assurance that he is loved. He’s not.
While Chisholm’s querulous James may be no God, neither is his unlikely confidante an angel, Wright’s crafty William is never quite as simple as he appears.
Together, Chisholm and Wright are a dream double-act with an innate understanding of Barrow’s clever use of language, which mixes modern day expressions and auld Scots in a linguistic muddle that serves to heighten the satire and odd moments of melancholy.
Throughout, Ryan Alexander Dewar’s tight direction ensures the pace and engaging physicality of the action never falters.
Run ends Saturday