Saltire Sky Theatre have lived up to all the expectations they raised following 1902, their smash hit of last year’s Fringe that won them the Broadway Baby Bobby Award and Off West End Award in the OffFest category.
Vibrant, visceral and vehement
It was a hard act to follow, but having left the Hibs ground behind him, as far as writing is concerned, Nathan Scott-Dunn has found new turf in the Edinburgh drugs scene with his latest play Bits ‘N’ Pieces, an even more high-octane production, full of action, comedy and tragedy, which each member of the cast draws out, embraces and contributes to in abundance. Scott-Dunn also directs and appears in the show. That’s the sort of combination of roles that can often lead to disaster, but such is his talent that he carries all three off with masterly inspiration.
The party is already in full swing as we enter, buy a drink at the bar and choose a seat. The performance is in the round so wherever you sit you’ll be immersed in the proceedings. The disco lights swirl and the techno music pumps out thanks to DJ Emma Hussain. Be prepared to take part and enter into conversation with the odd dealer. Once the floor is clear three friends emerge who have grown up together and are as close as brothers.
Matty (Calum Manchip), Dougie (Sandy Bain) and Tommy (Nathan Scott-Dunn) recount their times together, engage in mockery, reveal dream-worlds of ambition mixed with all their failures and shortcomings. The dialogue is fast and loud. If you’re not a local, or at least from Scotland, you’ll need to tune your ear. This is full-on Leith you’re listening to. There are no compromises and it’s exhilarating. It’s the mundane banter of everyday life with all its highs and lows, of which there are many more to come in both categories, yet it is revealing and informative, fleshing out the characters and it's filled with punchy wit and rapid ripostes that provoke laugh-out-loud appreciation.
Tommy is perhaps the senior member of the trio; after all he has a real job which he’s sustained for some years, unlike Dougie whose expertise lies in being a delivery boy in between periods of unemployment and idleness. Matty is the would-be ambitious one who actually makes the move to escape the confines of his life and join the RAF. No sooner is his application successful than he collides with the harsh reality of his decision and is called to Afghanistan. There’s just time for the boys to give him a send-off party. The timing coincides with the first-ever rave to be held in Usher Hall. If you don’t know it, look it up and you’ll see how outrageously ground-breaking this would be. It’s the source of much amusement.
They make it to the gig, and the rest of us join in the party. But it’s not long before the whole thing goes dreadfully wrong. When the lights go down and the noise subsides, in what amounts to act two, calamitous events that reach to the heart of group loyalties and family relationships occur. We’ve already met Dougie’s mother, Mandy (Emily Drewett) and Matty’s mother (Christie Russell-Brown) but now they come into their own as full blown-characters assimilated into the core of the plot.
The dark denouement reflects the outcome of the company’s research time spent with support workers within the NHS across different platforms and specialities, and their partner charity Crew 2000 ‘to ensure the script is rooted in authenticity and prevent the spread of false information’. Without preaching, the play comes with a strong message that reaches out not just to audiences but that will be heard in schools and prisons in specially developed performances and workshops.
Note the awe-inspiring change to poetic metre and rhyming couplets that heightens the message towards the end. It's just one of many elements that makes
Bits ‘N’ Pieces rock-solid entertainment and a stunning manifestation of the art of writing, acting and making contact with your audience. Its vibrant, visceral and vehement piece of theatre.
Note also that 1902 can be seen again this year, so if you missed it in previous years you can now combine it with Bits ‘N’ Pieces to make a full night out in Leith. It’s worth every minute.