One figure doesn’t appear in Performers, Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh’s new play inspired by some of the behind-the-scenes stories surrounding the making of 1970 cult film Performance—in which a London gangster (James Fox) hides out within the mansion of a former rock star (Mick Jagger), with all the cultural clashes you’d expect when different social worlds and ideas of masculinity run into each other towards the close of the “Swinging Sixties”.

A lumbering, laboured farce that pathetically repeats the homophobic and racial slurs of the period without any comment

Thankfully, if only for reasons of taste, we never see the film’s co-director, Edinburgh-born filmmaker Donald Cammell. Instead, our attention is on Burt and Alf (George Russo and Perry Benson), two well-turned-out, but otherwise low-rent members of London’s criminal fraternity. They’ve been invited for a meeting with Cammell who, in search of “authenticity”, has decided to cast real London gangsters in the film’s gangster roles. Unfortunately, he’s now stuck in an interminable meeting with Mick Jagger, although production “runner” and self-described “acolyte” Crispin (Lewis Kirk) sees an opportunity to help with the audition process.

If you’re hoping for some sharply written, gritty collision between Waiting for Godot and Goodfellas, you’re going to be disappointed. Alf is clearly a good sort, amiable and proud-as-punch of his young niece (Maya Gerber) who’s working as Cammell’s secretary, but his interminable monologue is incredibly annoying—though not as arse-clenching as the so-called Sixties Cockney which sounds so cartoonish it saws through any ropes suspending your disbelief. The cast here are doing their best, but the script is frankly against them, while Nick Moran’s staging feels incredibly blocky and old-fashioned, even for the 60s.

When it comes to portraying the straight white working class male, Welsh and Cavanagh have surely never been this bad before, stretching to reach levels of so-called comedy that even a contemporary Carry On… film would have almost certainly avoided. This is a lumbering, laboured farce that pathetically repeats the homophobic and racial slurs of the period without any comment, and considers Perry Benson’s naked arse a suitably fitting climax. Arguably, it is. Avoid.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Traverse Theatre

Arctic Oil

Multiple Venues


Multiple Venues


Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

Underbelly, Bristo Square

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Assembly George Square Studios

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The Blurb

Making its debut in Edinburgh, Performers is a black comedy from Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh. The longtime collaborators have turned their attention to 1960s swinging London and the making of the film Performance, a violent and trippy cult film that starred Mick Jagger and James Fox. The play revolves around two gangsters auditioning for roles and how far they will go to impress. Sexuality, identity, memory and Francis Bacon are examined as the pair try to make sense of the situation they have found themselves in. In 1960s swinging London, naked ambition trumps everything.