Writer: Jackie Hagan
Director: Amit Sharma
Reviewer: Chloe St George
Could we really be less tolerant, in cities, than people are out in the sticks? One would assume the opposite; cities tend to be more multicultural, more progressive. Shaun, one character in Jackie Hagan’s two-hander Cosmic Scallies, criticises posh old Manchester, where one can’t be oneself, compared to at home in Skelmersdale, where you can be as ‘f*cked up’ as you like. He might be more convincing if the audience didn’t already know that he bullied his best friend in school for being disabled, just because school politics dictated that he do so. It’s not the most coherent argument, but interesting nonetheless.
Cosmic Scallies offers several absorbing little nuggets like this to ponder over. Are there different types of intelligence? How much do our jobs give us purpose? Do we really belong anywhere? Does friendship actually require you to be nice to each other? Or just a certain amount of history and a certain amount of loyalty? Are meringues posh, or are they just eggs? The premise is simple: two childhood friends – Shaun and Dent – reunite in their working-class hometown in Lancashire, after one of them returns from a stint in the big city, Manchester.
Hagan’s script packs a lot of laughs, even if some of the posh jokes (and their root cause: Shaun’s chip on his shoulder) becomes slightly repetitive. Actors Reuben Johnson and Rachel Denning work well together, and Denning’s Dent carries well all the tiredness, chronic pain and ageing time that she experiences. However, Johnson’s use of voice felt quite limited, and his physicality overacted. In the script, his character is occasionally refreshingly unpretentious – “It’s 2017, no-one cares that you fancy girls.” But at other points, Hagan just seems to write him as comically stupid. Some scene changes, or interludes, in which electronic sounds play out and Johnson’s character half-heartedly leaps about the set, were a very strange directorial choice, which Sharma seems to realise, as they are done away with by the show’s halfway point. Be that as it may, the final scene is irrefutably well-written, playful and touching.
Don’t elbow anyone out of the way to get a ticket, but if you have one already, a short, sweet, heart-warming hour awaits.
Runs until 26 August 2017 (not Wednesdays) | Image: Contributed