‘If These Spasms Could Speak’ & ‘Dark Road’

‘If These Spasms Could Speak’

After a stellar run at the Fringe Festival past, ‘If These Spasms Could Speak‘ returned to Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre for two nights. The show recounts stories from many people with various disabilities and how they view their bodies, all told through one man: Robert Softley.

If These Spasms Could Speak

Traverse 2013

Endearing, cheeky and plenty of charisma, this show did exactly what it said on the tin. In all honesty, I wasn’t really expecting much else. My eyes have no need to be opened to how people live with disabilities, that having a disability can be funny and, fundamentally, they are people, too.

However, this wasn’t a preaching show. It was storytelling of Robert’s experience and others. It was genuinely interesting, funny, sad and lovely all at once. I have always held the belief that you can either accept who you are and work with what you’ve got, or spend your life suffering under your own mindset. In the case of these particular stories Robert has chosen, they hang in the balance between the two:

Perhaps there will always be a struggle, but how will you overcome it?

I’m very glad it continued its run past the Fringe. The hour flew by, and was definitely well worth a watch.

‘If These Spasms Could Speak’ at the Traverse

‘Dark Road’

Being the complete genius that I am, I had double-booked myself that same night. Running around the corner and into Edinburgh’s Lyceum for the second half of Ian Rankin‘s ‘Dark Road‘, I made it two minutes before it started. Not that I’m bragging.

From what I could gather, all that happened in the first half was exactly what the blurbs on the various forms of publicity had said. Only longer. Having asked my companions how the first half was, I received shoulder shrugs. By the end of the second half, I felt that way too.

Lyceum Edinburgh 2013

Lyceum Edinburgh 2013

It wasn’t particularly bad, rather the performance just wasn’t great. For me, there were a number of things at fault that, once remedied, could entirely transform the piece. Overall, the first problem was the acting. Philip Whitchurch (the convicted killer, Alfred Chalmers) was by far the most consistent performer, toeing the line between the misunderstood and insanity. Frank (Robert Gwilym) and ‘Black’ Fergus (Ron Donachie, who was painfully underused) didn’t really have a lot to work with in the final half, so that instead leaves me with Isobel (Maureen Beattie) and Alexandra (Sara Vickers).

I can really only talk about the latter two in connection to another fault: believability. Alexandra has been written as a whinger. A whiny, melodramatic irritation who just wants to be loved. And sleeps around, apparently. I’m not entirely sure I get why that was important, but it was repeatedly stated so I guess it means something to someone. There is no fault in trying to fill the void, so to speak, by seeking out Alfred Chalmers as a fatherly figure because he actively takes an interest in her, unlike her mother, which he deliberately plays on. There is no fault in being angry that she doesn’t even know who her father is, because how many people are there in the world who just want to know their roots? And yes, annoyingly, there are some whingers out there.

But Alexandra was all and none of the above. In analysis, she sounds interesting and flawed, in keeping with Rankin’s style; in performance, you wonder why Alfred doesn’t just kill her instead of following his own plan.

As for Isobel, she is a typical Rankin creation. Strong, flawed, and invariably doubting of her own ability as a DCSI. Or was she strong? Someone will need to tell me. The Isobel I witnessed was drowning in her own doubt, with every strand of her life falling apart: her daughter, home, colleagues, work and former training. So if that isn’t a problem for me, what is?

I didn’t buy for one second that, in the middle of the murder investigation ending in Alfred’s arrest, Isobel bought the house of the deceased’s family. That doesn’t work. Other than it being incredibly twisted, that surely comes under conflict of interest? It should also have served as a warning sign that Isobel was mentally unwell – so why was it allowed? I can accept Rankin’s continuous insistence that all is not gold in a police department, and there can be many grey areas, but blind stupidity and ignorance of an entire station dealing with the same case? Really?

Of course, this is all just fiction, but that last piece for me was a little too incredulous to be taken seriously. By the end, that was tricky enough anyways. Apparently phone loudspeakers are so advanced, you can have full blown conversations between someone outside the room the phone is in and people on the other end of the line. And Isobel is appalling at calming a terror subject holding her at gunpoint, negating how many years of training? She’s meant to be approaching retirement, so presumably it’s thirty years minimum.

Like I said at the top, it wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t great. Alexandra screamed “I love you” to her mum ten minutes before the end. I rolled my eyes.

‘Dark Road’ at the Lyceum



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