Writer: John Byrne
Director: Caroline Paterson
Reviewer: R G Balgray
Successful sequels are difficult to achieve and when you look at any trilogy, the “middle” piece can often seem like the runt of the litter. That said, the Citizens team manages to blow up a storm in their new production of Cuttin’ a Rug, the second of John Byrne’s Slab Boys Trilogy.
Once more the audience follows the trials of Phil and Spanky from the slab room of the Stobo & Co Carpet Factory in Paisley. However, the play follows pretty directly on from Phil being sacked and covers the events at the annual staff “do” (which he attends). Since it’s still the 1950s, you might expect the rawness and vitality of their double-act schtick simply to transfer to their social life milieu. But it doesn’t quite work out that way. While their irreverence and humour still features in Cuttin’ a Rug, as they drink away troubles, bicker and banter, and chase the ideal chat-up line, the character-driven aspect of the sequel seems to originate with the female leads, particularly Helen Mallon and Louise McCarthy as Lucille and Bernadette – also from Stobo’s, but here sharpening their teeth as ballroom floor barracudas. Their rivalry – seemingly from before primary school – is scored in every harsh judgment on their present partners, every last put-down (and there are many – some perhaps reaching the Richter scale); and in each’s attempts to double-cross the other.
However, while this drives much of the action, the most compelling feature of the production is much less its content than its style. The initial set – all mirror tiles and fluorescent lights – locates the cast’s last-minute preparations: cue pouting, lipstick application, and comparison and criticism of some pretty enlarged quiffs and cockatrices. Postures are struck, and plans laid. Just in case we miss the core message, back projections of what must be John Byrne’s original costume design drawings make the point- image is the key. But underwriting all this superficial gloss comes some terrific backtrack music from that golden age of early rock and roll. It’s so compelling that it is easy to go along with them, and to understand Phil and Spanky’s obsession with “the look”, and the hair (as preening, super-inflated, flawed egos, Ryan Fletcher and Paul-James Corrigan suitably grab the limelight here). When the reality of the “do” itself overtakes them in the second half, and illusions bump up against reality, due reward is drawn from its many farcical possibilities. For most of the characters, the situation may be hopeless – but it’s not really serious.
Runs until 4 March 2017 | Image: Contributed