Wee Andy
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 20th Aug 2011
  • |
  • ★★★★

There’s a certain type of show that prompts a degree of fatigue in me. Issues-based shows are a staple fare of the Fringe, but if they’re not done well they quickly become tiresome. Wee Andy is not tiresome.The premise, examining the repercussions of a vicious knife attack in the Glasgow tenements, at first seems slightly unpromising but is made superb by the intelligent design of the production. Wee Andy is left hideously scarred by his attacker and this effect is chillingly recreated simply by stretching rubber bands across the actor’s face to cut into and distort the flesh. Clingfilm is used to show the glossy, unnatural quality of newly healed skin grafts and the lighting is angled so as to throw all of these blemishes into sharp reliefThe performances on show here are also superb. Steven Nicoll is a towering presence as The Surgeon, a local boy done good who is consumed with a need to drag others out of neglect. Neil Leiper is a terrifying twitchy psychotic Kenzie and Pauline Knowles is incredibly touching as Andy’s Ma, gripped with the fear of losing her little boy. Even Neil Reynolds as Andy himself manages to hold the audience despite the part being largely non-speaking. What lifts this show to real heights, though, is the quality of the writing. Paddy Cunneen has done an amazing job of writing for the Glasgow accent. His dialogue, delivered naturalistically by the actors, rings with a note of urban fury which mirrors the mood of the play very effectively.But it’s when the play moves to monologue and soliloquy that the writing really stands out. These sections are written and delivered like blank verse which, along with the actors’ Scots brogue, transforms the text to something extraordinary. A surgeon’s description of the damage to Andy’s face ceases to be exposition and becomes a Shakespearean lament on ruined youth. It really does need to be heard to be believed.There are admittedly a few things about the play that jar slightly. The characters aren’t quite as nuanced as they could be and the plot moves in a fairly predictable direction. Yet these flaws don’t take too much away from what is a very strong piece of theatre.Wee Andy isn’t easy to watch by any stretch of the imagination. It does deal with dark and violent themes but deals with them in such a compelling way that it’s impossible to look away. Powerful, chilling and spellbinding.

Reviews by Tom King

Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★
CanadaHub @ King's Hall in association with Summerhall

Famous Puppet Death Scenes

★★★★
Assembly George Square Gardens

Jess Robinson: No Filter

★★★★

The Blurb

Running parallel to events in Fleeto, using equally intense poetic language, ‘Wee Andy’ tells how a surgeon struggles to save another brutally slashed young Glasgow lad and the extraordinary steps the boy’s mother takes to keep him safe.