By Kirsty MacLeod
‘A play and a pint’ is what was described in the program, and as I walked into Venue on Tuesday November 1, the first night of the production, I was eager to see how the night was to unfold. The stunning direction of Duncan Lawrie and the production of Ainé Taylor, brought Stirling University Drama Society’s performance of Liz Lochhead’s ‘Perfect Days’ to life, and it was frankly hilarious. The classic vulgar Glaswegian humour, the endless, yet sly, sexual innuendos and random musical outbursts kept me entertained, fascinated and eager to know more about these characters that were being portrayed before me.
For those of you are not familiar with the play, I’ll break it down for you. The play follows the 39-year-old celebrity hairdresser Barbs Marshall – fantastically portrayed by Grace Brammer – through her mid-life crisis and her desire to have a child before her biological clock runs out, all the while trying to cling onto her youth and prepare for her future with her loveable flamboyant best friend, Brendan Boyle.
Gradually, what comes together is this merging of a complexity of motherhood. Along the way, we meet Barbs’ mother Sadie, who condemns the notion of single parenthood, and Davie Marshall, who is amicably separated from Barb. Just to add to the complexity of the family dynamic, a forbidden love emerges between Barb and the well-educated Grant Steele, who just happens to be the birth son of Alice Inglis, Barbs longest friend and ex-sister-in-law.
The family element and the warmth between all the characters was well achieved by all cast members, with the casting spot on. Each actor shared a physical likeness as Andrew Hart, Heather McNeil and James Craig depicted their characters to perfection. The portrayal of the family appeared very passionate and emotional when dealing with issues within their dynamic but at the same time very raw, realistic and yet utterly captivating.
Grace Brammer’s performance as ‘Barb’ was sensational. She completely embodied the character and engaged the audience, yet at the same time making moments that Barb had so personal and intimate. A character who, due to her indiscretions, may not appear likeable but Brammer’s innovative performance added innocence and beauty which made the audience want to achieve her happiness, whichever way possible.
For me, however, the highlight of the play had to come from Mullen’s portrayal of Brendan Boyle; we were introduced to his character by him dancing with a bottle of wine around the living room with Barb to ‘Proud Mary’ by Tina Turner. The completely sassy and comedic character added a light-hearted attitude, especially to emotional moments throughout the play. From the witty comments to his disgust at a birthday jumper left me wanting to go on a night out with Brendan as his character and portrayal was simply fantastic. The friendship between Barb and Brendan was portrayed beautifully and illustrated how much you rely on friendship as adults.
One also can’t forget Camilla Barnett’s stunning, yet hilarious portrayal of Sadia Kirkwood, the 61-year-old nag of a mother to Barb. Continuously interfering and commenting on every aspect of her daughter’s life, Barnett’s performance was able to make the audience almost forget it was two actors, but a naggy mother, telling her 39-year -old daughter to tidy up, something we can all often relate to. The generation gap is very clear here by the dynamic between Sadie and Barb which was so interesting to see and handled brilliantly.
The stage design was additionally excellent as SUDS portrayed the late 1990s to early 2000s living room area of Barb’s Merchant City apartment. No detail was too small, including the alcohol tray of many beverages. It is a shame that the society had a smaller space in Venue, but they did work with what they had and used the space to the best of their ability. A special mention must go to all the behind the scene team who brought the play together in such a fantastic way.
Overall, I was completely blown away by SUDS’ performance. There was no moment where I was looking at my watch to see how long I had until the interval for a free pint. No moment as every cast member was completely connecting with and captivating every member of the audience, in the emotional moments, all the while leaving everyone in stitches at the comedic ones. The play uniquely deals with rather harrowing topics such as; fertility, divorce, death and abortion which is often broken up with light-hearted humour. However, all six cast members were sensational and added such personality and emotion to their roles which they completely embodied, enchanting the entire audience, myself included.