A criticism sometimes made about
Edinburgh – especially by Glaswegians – is that, while the city appears
sophisticated and morally upstanding, this is just a facade hiding a far more
vulgar and immoral reality – that the Scottish capital is “all
fur coat and nae knickers”.
In many respects, the increasingly ludicrous nature of the unfolding plot helps.
Which, if nothing else, makes this one actor-three characters show sound much more serious than it actually is; for not only does Fiona Knowles inhabit three women of disparate ages with heart, emotion and genuine delight, Munro’s script is chock-full of humour nevertheless grounded in situation and character.
We’re first introduced to Rose, a sixty-never-you-mind mother so keen on recycling that even she refers to herself as Second-Hand-Rose. However, we find her in a posh department store changing room, awaiting the return of her always-smiling personal shopper Jenny, who is desperately trying to find an ideal outfit for what Rose keeps referring to a “hot date” – with taxi driver Tony – but is actually her daughter Libby’s wedding. As the pair go onto the shop floor, each with their own bespoke desperation, to find anything Rose might consider buying, the changing room is occupied by an elderly shoplifter, who always wanted to be Robin Hood rather than Maid Marion in childhood games and now realises that her appearance as “a respectable old person” is her best protection from store detectives and CCTV cameras.
In addition to the artificiality of having one woman playing all three roles – so obviously any interaction between them is reported second-hand – there’s the added theatricality of each woman speaking directly and knowingly to the audience, even during a high-speed chase that takes the main characters from an out-of-town shopping mall to Edinburgh Castle rock during the height of the annual Military Tattoo. This can, on occasions, lead to a slippery grasp on our suspension of disbelief – not least the idea that any vehicles can move faster than 5mph in the centre of Edinburgh during the Festival – but Knowles is a consummate performer who pulls us into this world despite its innate artificiality. In many respects, the increasingly ludicrous nature of the unfolding plot helps.
Fur Coat & Magic Knickers touches on many issues, not least about judging by appearances and finding worth in yourself. Unfortunately, on a few occasions, it does come across as an unsubtle public information film on behalf of Citizen’s Advice for anyone in denial about their credit card debt; nor does Munro avoid a succession of happy endings that could be too sugary for anyone with diabetes in the audience. Yet that’s a thought for after the show; while in their company, these three women – courtesy of Knowles – are definitely good company.