"Midsummer" at TheaterWorks
By Tom Nissley
It is Midsummer’s eve -- the shortest night of the year -- and one of magical importance in the old belief system of pre-Christian thought -- and two delightful persons, quite different, however, from each other, are about to connect for some lovely mischief together, at a wine bar in the West End of Edinburgh. Bob (M Scott Mclean) and Helena (Rebecca Hart) are each at the wine bar waiting for other folks -- who don’t turn up -- and as they are each 35, and reflecting on how their respective lives are flowing, surely they talk a bit and sort of pick each other up, which leads to a long session of drinking and quite uninhibited sex at Helena’s toddy apartment down in Marchmont.
You don’t have to know Edinburgh to follow the story of this play, but if you do you’ll find it even more fun as the whole geography of the place is laid out. Marchmont is a far enough walk from the wine bar, down past the Meadows, which is where Bob pauses on his way home (heading to Leith -- a wholly different class of flats there) to piss, but can’t because he’s still too...um, excited. Instead he has a conversation with himself about how long he’ll keep on with one night stands and no commitment.
Morning comes late for each -- and they are throttled with hangovers, mixed with misgivings. It’s a Saturday. Bob’s boss delivers a pink car to him, with instructions to sell it, which he does, for 15,000 pounds, cash. As he races to the bank to deposit the money, and arrives a minute (!) too late, he stumbles over Helena, who has also been running and has arrived too late to be the bridesmaid for her sister’s wedding. It’s traumatic for each. Bob manages to get her to walk with him while they sort out more of who they are and what they’re about, and while they’re on Princess Street in the Gardens he hatches a plan to take this huge amount of cash he’s holding and binge spend it. He buys a guitar, they busker on the High Street and take a room at the Balmoral Hotel, they go to a kinky night bar where they end up tied together back to back in Japanese bondage, and confess secrets to each other.
Still another morning, and Bob’s boss comes looking for where’s the money? Bob runs frantically, chased by his boss, who keeps pace with him and in fact is right with him, ready to gun him down, when he has a quick heart attack instead. So Bob, who still has a few thousand quid they haven’t managed to spend, decides to take his guitar and take the ferry to Belgium and live free in a whole new life.
What about Helena? She can’t go off with this drifter. He’s not her sort. But when she goes back to the Castle Terrace Car Park, where she’s left her car several days now, she reads again the sign over the pay station and suddenly the words sink in in a lovely way. “Change is Possible.” She arrives at the ferry dock saying she’ll go along, just as far as Bruges…
The play, so intricately constructed, with outrageous and tender details inter-mixed, is accompanied by music on guitar and ukulele by both actors, with songs that match the action. The music was composed by Gordon McIntyre, who wrote the play with David Greig. It is a splendid composite piece, beautifully directed by Tracy Brigden, with imagination and verve. A perfect example of an ensemble production.
The set design (Narelle Sissons) is a jumbled background of pieces of antique furnishings that might represent all the places the couple has visited in Edinburgh. It works well. A wooden platform, two chairs, and a stool provide the structure for the scenes all over town. A plastic bag from Tesco holds the cash.
Wherever you are in your own midsummer, “Midsummer” will catch your attention. It’s very worth a trip to Hartford for the experience. Tickets and information are at www.theatreworkshartford.org or call 860-527-7838 to reserve your seats.
Tom Nissley at the
New Canaan, CT 06840