EFR - Reviews of Prestwick Elvis

Prestwick Elvis

Sun 7th – Sat 27th August 2016

reviews

Grace Calvert

at 08:17 on 14th Aug 2016

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Climbing the stairs of theSpace on the Mile you can hear the low, steady double bass that is so universally recognisable as the music of the King himself, Elvis Presley.

Presley never toured in the UK, despite hordes of devoted fans wishing he would. The only time he ever set foot on British soil was in 1960, when for two hours he stopped over in Prestwick while travelling home from military service. ‘Prestwick Elvis’ is Swiftkick Theatre and New Celts’ imagining of those two hours.

The play opens with teenage girl Marie recounting the greatest story from her youth, the day she met her idol, Elvis Presley. Marie, played by Debi Pirie, is enchanting and natural, totally capturing the audience’s attention. After Marie’s sister Muriel jumps the barrier and throws herself at Elvis, Marie cannot take her older sister once again upstaging her. She resolves to break into the airport hangar where Elvis is spending his two precious hours on British ground. In the hangar she meets Eric, George and Angus, three men working at the airport who are friends with her sister. There’s nice attention to detail in creating this setting, with the rusty old toolbox and dull grey chairs creating the simple setting that will contain the play.

Aware that he is in the next room to them, the four begin to plan how they are going to meet Elvis. The play falters here, as the dialogue becomes dull and uninspiring. The actors attempt to lift the script and build some tension, but fail to spread any of their nervous excitement at meeting the celebrity of the age to the audience.

The play picks up when Elvis enters, though once again it is hit and miss. There are parts that really work. The sense that Elvis is enjoying himself, finally able to talk to people who are his own age, is lightly and skilfully done. It also provides an interesting contrast to when we see the sides of his personality that are more removed from reality. Elvis who is struggling with fame, becoming obsessed with Tony Curtis’ hair and controlling his own image, is certainly more dynamic than the sweet country evangelical.

However there are also holes in the writing. I find it hard to believe that Elvis would have a long discussion about religion upon meeting four avid fans, and there is a love story which feels hastily put together and somewhat forced. Once again, there is no hysteria in the room, even when Elvis is standing right in front of us.

The play is also missing the music of Elvis. It feels like a missed opportunity not to find a way to incorporate some of Elvis’s music into the play which is, undoubtedly, his most interesting asset.

It is a play with potential but it needs someone to come in and liven it up. Truth be told, it is in need of a bit of rock and roll.

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Emma Taylor

at 08:41 on 14th Aug 2016

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‘Prestwick Elvis’, by Swift Kick Theatre and New Celts Productions, is a heart-warming show telling the tale of when Elvis Presley somehow came to small-town Scotland and spent the day with a group of star struck locals. Although sometimes so sweet it was almost sickly, it was overall a feel-good performance – good, harmless fun.

The script and the plotline certainly deliver on the fuzzy feel-good factor. Think of your typical group of Scottish workers in a typical heart-warming tale – bashful, slightly rough and bantering but with those hearts of gold. There are some lines of comedy here that, although not hilarious, elicit a quiet chuckle from the audience with gentle jokes, even if they do have a reliance on a slightly childish sense of humour. When Elvis comes to town they are predictably and touchingly, if slightly exasperatingly, star struck. It is here that the plot starts to become so sickly-sweet as to be slightly over the top; Elvis breaking down about his childhood is original and moving, his breakdown about the downfalls of fame less so. Elvis reacting badly to being photographed gives the play a touch of tension, yet, predictably, the boys manage to teach him to trust people and be the bigger person. Angus, the shy lad, gets his girl, Marie, and everything comes up roses.

Although it is essentially a simple case of 'happily ever after', the performance does d give it an elegant and moving twist at the end, lifting it a cut above the usual. A very sweet and genuine epilogue at the end manages to bring a previously sugary and slightly bland show into emotional territory. The character of Marie performs a simple and touching monologue, in which she explains the ending of the characters and reminisces over the visit of Elvis. Nostalgia is given out in heavy doses and although it is bordering on nauseating it never reaches that suffocating stage, mainly because of the simplicity of the script and the pure acting of the actress. The acting on the whole is very competent. All of the workers are portrayed touchingly and sympathetically, as was Elvis, and jokes are delivered with impeccable timing.

It is, all in all, a decent show. Its saccharine rosy glow is obviously artificial, with all of the classical all-boys-together banter, the 'happily ever after' ending, and the moralising conclusion. This said, is that so bad? Its feel-goo factor may not be original, but that does not make it any less real, or enjoyable.

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