Chem­istry, talent and an ef­fec­tive metaphor for life

The Scotsman - - Reviews - JOYCE MCMIL­LAN

THE­ATRE

Vul­can 7

King’s The­atre, Ed­in­burgh

DO YOU re­mem­ber the Ice­landic vol­cano that erupted in 2010, ground­ing flights all over north­ern Europe? Adrian Ed­mond­son and Nigel Planer, formerly of iconic 1980s tele­vi­sion se­ries The Young Ones, re­mem­ber it too; and it’s on the un­sta­ble ice-cap of Ey­jaf­jal­la­jökull that they have set their new tour­ing play Vul­can 7, play­ing briefly in Ed­in­burgh this week.

In out­line, the play is not much more than yet an­other self-con­scious show­biz com­edy, in which Nigel and Ade play age­ing ac­tors Hugh and Gary, one a rather stuffy es­tab­lish­ment fig­ure who plays but­lers, the other a booze-soaked hell-raiser who has blown a once-suc­cess­ful Hollywood ca­reer.

Both are in­volved in the film­ing of a cult science fic­tion film called Vul­can, the sev­enth in a se­ries; and the scene is set in Hugh’s com­fort­able on-site car­a­van, which Gary has just in­vaded in a rage af­ter learn­ing that the bit-part he is play­ing– as a mon­ster in a fe­ro­ciously un­com­fort­able rub­ber suit –only en­ti­tles him to a onethird share of an in­fe­rior trailer.

The play opens un­promis­ingly, as Ed­mond­son’s Gary roars around moan­ing about po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness and bul­ly­ing the play’s third char­ac­ter, an im­pres­sively calm and com­pe­tent film-set “run­ner” called Leela, played with poise by Lois Chim­imba.

Some­time be­fore the in­ter­val, though, Gary sobers up, and Ed­mond­son starts to de­liver a truly in­ter­est­ing per­for­mance as the wreck­age of a man who could have been a great ac­tor, while Planer – as ever – pro­vides the per­fect foil to his post-punk rage and self­dis­gust.

Mean­while, the moun­tain it­self starts to have its say; and

as Si­mon Higlett’s set lurches and tilts, the play be­gins to look like a sur­prsis­ingly ef­fec­tive metaphor for the strange pre­car­i­ous­ness of our lit­tle is­lands of western com­fort, in a world fac­ing cat­a­strophic change.

Vul­can 7 is not a great play, in any sense; and its in­ter­minable show­biz run­ning gag about Daniel Day Lewis stops be­ing funny long be­fore the end. Yet its vi­sion of two age­ing men look­ing back in mu­tual dis­like and re­gret, fight­ing over the pa­ter­nity of what­ever fu­ture there might be, and then per­haps fac­ing the end to­gether, is held to­gether by a com­bi­na­tion of talent and chem­istry that re­mains unique, 30 years on.

And when Ed­mond­son’s Gary fi­nally be­gins to re­flect on his life in frag­ments of the vast clas­sic roles he strangely can­not ex­punge from his drunken brain, the ef­fect is mov­ing and slightly spine-shiv­er­ing, as we re­alise that the­atri­cal great­ness can ap­pear in the odd­est and most dam­aged places, right to the end.

Fi­nal per­for­mances to­day.

Nigel Planer is the rather stuffy Hugh Delavois, the per­fect foil for Adrian Ed­mond­son’s Gary Sav­age, a booze-soaked hell-raiser full of re­grets

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