Double Bill: Something Unspoken

Tue 11th – Sat 22nd August 2015


Rowena Henley

at 09:36 on 13th Aug 2015



The location of Theatre Alba’s double bill production really takes the word ‘fringe’ to its utmost extremes. In the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, this riverside haven - best reached by bus rather than on foot - felt a hundred miles from the relentless buzz of central Edinburgh during the month of August, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. The performances I saw that afternoon were as charming as the setting, with the renditions of Anton Chekov’s Smoking Is Bad For You and Tennessee Williams’ Something Unspoken allowing for a break from experimental new writing and a chance to get back to the classics.

Smoking Is Bad For You (also known as The Harmful Effects of Tobacco) is Chekov’s one-man, one-scene show in which a lecturer, Ivan Ivanovich Nyukhin, intends to speak about the damages of smoking, but finds himself contemplating his own damaged life. Alan Ireby was a thoroughly convincing Ivan Nyukhin, depicting Chekov’s character nuances to near perfection. I especially enjoyed the way in which Ireby portrayed Nyukhin’s fear and loathing of his wife.

Chekov’s writing is notoriously difficult to interpret and perform, so I must commend Theatre Alba for taking on such a mammoth task. I did, however, catch myself a little adrift at points during the performance. Although there was definitely an admirable effort, I found there to be very few changes in tone or pace during the performance, which sadly meant it came dangerously close to monotony and was subsequently a little dull on one or two occasions.

Next up was Something Unspoken, a piece set in 1950s Louisiana where two women, Cornelia (Kirsten Maguire) and Grace (Suzanne Dance), her secretary, struggle over the vocalisation of an incident that happened many years before. This was a performance which had the dramatic changes its predecessor somewhat lacked, although a few were executed a little clumsily. The acting was generally of a very good standard but, once again, Theatre Alba took on a tricky piece of writing which requires high levels of finesse. There was a great energy and a nice onstage relationship between the two actresses, but occasionally the subtleties of the piece weren’t quite achieved.

If you are looking for a gentle afternoon of beautiful surroundings and interesting theatre, then Theatre Alba’s double bill is the production for you. Although certainly not ground-breaking stuff, the two plays were handled professionally and performed pleasantly.


Alannah Jones

at 11:51 on 13th Aug 2015



There is no denying that the backdrop to these two little plays is absolutely stunning. It may, however, be contested whether even such a beautiful setting as the Kirk Manse Gardens overlooking Duddingston Loch and the plays themselves are worth the slog out of Edinburgh city centre – a 40-45 minute walk but an easy bus ride away. For those seeking to escape from the throng of the Royal Mile, this charming little production may be ideal.

Pairing Anton Checkov with Tennesse Williams is a bold move, yet the two short plays hang together comfortably, linked by the periodical ticking of a metronome and the ever-present theme of time slipping away unfulfilled, youth and opportunity not so much wasted as just elapsed. Regret is very much the buzzword of this production.

Alan Ireby’s henpecked husband casts a pitiful figure, stammering and twitching in a manner that was uncomfortable to watch – presumably the desired effect. The character was believable despite the slightly dubious Welsh accent, blending humour and pathos in a mournful and self-pitying monologue. The occasional interjection of slapstick was amusing and well-judged. In between the two plays, tea coffee and cake were for sale, with the air of a village-hall bake sale.

Following the changeover of scenery (a white tablecloth and a single red rose), we are met with Kirstin Mcguire’s austere and aging southern belle with an accent more convincing than her wig. Between Mcguire’s Cornelia and Suzanne Dance’s Grace they keep alive the tension at the heart of Williams’ intriguing play, keeping the true nature of the relationship between them ambiguous and taboo. Both plays are moving and sombre, each with a certain unpolished charm, taking on some heavy themes and more or less pulling it off. To put it bluntly, the plays were pleasant if largely unremarkable – and yet I can’t help but suspect that the stilted air of half-hearted unfulfillment pervading this production is befitting of the thematic focus.

Theatre Alba have succeeded in creating a poignant double bill, wrought with the sadness of unfulfillment and discontent at the heart of the human condition.


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