What a difference a decade can make. When, back in 2008, Midsummer was first performed within the intimate space of Traverse 2, the "indie-rom-com musical" seemed a surprisingly inconsequential affair, especially given it was co-created and directed by David Greig, who the previous year had enjoyed huge acclaim for the double-whammy of Damascus (about Western intervention in the Middle East) and a new adaptation of Euripides' The Bacchae starring Alan Cumming.
Greig’s inventive, lively writing provides a strong foundation for an engaging cast.
Now it's 2018, and Greig is not only one of Scotland’s leading writers, but also Artistic Director of the Royal Lyceum Theatre, the Scottish capital's principal producing theatre. Midsummer, the small experimental musical co-created with Gordon McIntryre (of Edinburgh indie group Ballboy) and done very much "for fun", is now given pride of place in the Edinburgh International Festival, in an enlarged version performed within one of the city's most august (no pun intended) venues, the Hub. This is arguably the story of the Little Musical That Could, and it looks as if it's doing so all over again.
Essentially, Midsummer is the story of Helena and Bob: she, a divorce lawyer; he, a small cog in Edinburgh’s criminal underground. They’re both 35, and beginning to question the course their lives. The pair meet in a wine bar at the start of Edinburgh's midsummer weekend (it's raining), get horribly drunk, have sex, and then assume they'll never see each other again. But we know they must, not least because their story is in part being told by older versions of themselves, clearly a couple. Indeed, the staging initially resembles a wedding reception or anniversary celebration.
Greig's inventive, lively writing provides a strong foundation for an engaging cast, who are kept focused by director Kate Hewitt; yet the added joy really comes from McIntyre's songs. Some will make you laugh—not least that hangover song! Others make for pause and reflection. A decade on, Midsummer – now with a cast of just five (not including the rest of the live band) – has naturally, gracefully grown to fit its much larger venue.