A wonderful, comic tale of falling in love when you least expect it.
“…a delightfully warm, funny, sad, crazily plausible shaggy dog tale of a rom-com. It felt good to be part of it.” Nick Le Mesurier, Leamington Courier.
"A pitch perfect, comically choreographed, unforgettable night" Barbara Goulden, Elementarywhatson.com
A midsummer weekend in Edinburgh. It's raining. Bob's a failing car salesman on the fringes of the city's underworld. Helena's a high-powered divorce lawyer with a taste for other people's husbands. She's totally out of his league; he's not her type at all. They absolutely should not sleep together. Which is, of course, why they do. A play where the two actors also play and sing original music in an extravaganza of playfulness, wit, colour, sound and song.
This play contains some adult themes and brief flashing nightclub lights.
In line with our EDI policy, we undertake an EDI impact assessment of all our artistic programming. 'Midsummer' by David Greig and Gordon McIntyre has no central diversity message. It can be cast completely neutrally of race/ethnicity. The central story means that the characters should be ideally be playing ages around 30s/40s. The play is written for a heterosexual couple but there could be flexibility around this.
What can I say about The Criterion's latest play - a musical made for two, would you believe?
Well, it was written by singer-songwriter Gordon McIntyre along with David Greig. Which means many of those explanatory self-introspection moments are sung, rather than spoken. Or delivered in such an off-hand way that the dialogue makes you laugh out loud, and very occasionally come close to tears. But mostly laugh your socks off.
I always think plays with only two characters have to be the most challenging for any actor, whether they are amateur or professional. And this is the second time in a matter of weeks that the little theatre on Berkeley Road South has managed to produce a master class in performance.
Of course the company is lucky enough to have built up such a talent pool over the years that newcomers among the audience would be hard put to tell the difference between those who act for a living and the ones here who are usually just taking a week off from their day jobs.
So it is with the excellent Nicol Cortese and Chris Firth who play Helena and Bob, the lawyer and the petty criminal, who play instruments, sing, simulate sex (at least I hope it was simulated), while taking on the roles of other minor characters with the help of little more than a few deceptively simple display boards.
This pared down "reverse musical" as co-author David Greig describes it, was seen at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago.
Thankfully Criterion director Pete Gillam saw the play's worth and together Nicol and Chris create a pitch perfect, comically choreographed, unforgettable night.
Catch this if you can.
Ah, summer! That season of long lazy days, of warmth from a cheery sun, of drinks outdoors, of pleasure, the high spot of the year. After that, its downhill all the way.
Well, not quite. Not yet anyway. Not for Medium Bob (Chris Firth) and Helena (Nicol Cortese), anyway. He’s called Medium Bob because there’s nothing special about him, nothing that stands out. That’s good because he’s intostuff that’s, strictly speaking, not quite legal. Like selling dodgy cars. He’s a loser, but in a medium sort of way. She’s a divorce lawyer with a history of affairs with married men, well paid, still single, a bit cynical. She’s out on the lash when they meet, stood up in a bar and looking for company. He’s reading Dostoevsky, to cheer himself up. They’re hitting middle age and seem to have nothing in common, so why not have a night of no-holds-barred crazy (and very funny) sex? After all, they’re never going to meet again.
Except, of course, fate seems to have other plans for them. Because he’s about to come into a large sum of not quite legal cash. A deal on a car goes wrong when he just misses the bank and so can’t deposit the money for his not very tolerant boss, a flaw in the plan that could prove fatal for him. At the same time, she is turning up a few minutes late and hungover for her sister’s wedding where she’s supposed to be bridesmaid. They might as well get together and spend it now because, well, it’s midsummer day and (see first paragraph).
Midsummer is a charm of a play. We believe every step of this unlikely couple’s affair. Even the bit where they end up abandoned in a fetish club, tied together in more ways than one. Like every romance, there are will-they, won’t-they moments, and we’re desperately hoping they will. Because these two fine actors earn the love we feel for their characters.
They give a tour-de-force performance, both on stage for the whole full-length show. Midsummer is described as a play with songs. It’s not a musical, though the songs, simply played on guitar and piano, intersperse the action and gently urge it along. Songs like, “If my hangover was a country” and “Love will break your heart” sum up the mood of reckless abandon and wistful nostalgia. Theirs is a weekend around which their whole lives will turn.
There’s a lot to enjoy in this play. The stage, for one thing, is made up of a series of folding and sliding panels that open and close to change the scene, like a giant children’s picture book. It’s clever and economical and is one of the many pleasures to be had. Unfortunately I had a little trouble following all the lyrics to the songs because the sound balance wasn’t quite right.
But that was a small price to pay for what is a delightfully warm, funny, sad, crazily plausible shaggy dog tale of a rom-com. It felt good to be part of it.