The Rise and Inevitable Fall of Lucas Petit
Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh
JJJ Miss Veitch’s Roses Oran Mor, Glasgow JJJJ
The readiness is all, says Shakespeare in Hamlet; but as these two plays show, being ready to die can be both a rational response to extreme old age and infirmity, and a sign of desperate confusion, neediness and despair.
In Andy McGregor’s new absurdist touring musical, The Rise and Inevitable Fall of Lucas Petit –as self- consciously vivid and stylised as its title suggests – Lucas Petit is an unremarkable thirty something man who works in a call centre, lives in upwardly mobile Dennistoun, and adores his high-powered and increasingly indifferent wife Natasha, whose job involves being in charge of security for an upcoming major event at the Scottish Parliament.
His life changes, though, when someone claiming to be God waylays him in the street. It soon transpires that this God (played with massive camp melodrama by Darren Brownlie) has taken up a bet from Ashley Smith’s Lucifer to show that he can do evil as well as she can; and in no time he has poor Lucas involved in a plot that results in mayhem at the Parliament, the kidnap of the First Minister, and poor Lucas being kitted out with a suicide bomber’s explosive belt, and told to use it.
The show’s problem is that its satirical style (reflected in a vivid cartoon set by Alice Wilson) is not quite under control, and its satire not very sharp; I don’t know where McGregor, as writer, composer and director, gets the idea that Nicola Sturgeon never changes her hairstyle, or that Cumbernauld – perched on a notably breezy hill – is the smelliest town in Scotland.
What it lacks in satirical precision and focus, though, this show makes up for in sheer cheek and chutzpah, as it combines comic-book adventure with smoky nightclub songs and a nice line in contemporary Scottish self-mockery. So that by the time Alasdair Hankinson’s wide-eyed Lucas crosses into the great beyond, we’re struck by the poignancy of his plight, as a man looking for lost love who eventually finds nothing but manipulation, and a cult of death.
In Miss Veitch’s Roses, by contrast, the central character in Jane Livingstone’s 50-minute drama for A Play, A Pie And A Pint is 90 years old, bedridden and all too clear about why she would like to shuffle off her mortal coil. Her mind, though, is as sharp as ever, as she recalls her lively single life and her career in publishing.
It feels like something of a privilege to watch this beautifully written character, whose language carries so much experience with such wit and lightness, as she makes her way through her final days, supported at every turn by her two carers, Angela Darcy’s motherly, self-deprecating Linda during the day, and Paul James Corrigan’s taciturn Euan at night.
There’s a touch of sentimentality in Ken Alexander’s production, perhaps, or at least of that desperate human effort to make a little too much sense of our own mortality.
Given three fine, beautifully pitched performances, though, above all from the wonderful Jenny Lee as Miss Veitch, this exquisite short play is hard to resist; and full of a quiet, impressive pulse of truth.
Lucas Petit is at the Brunton, Musselburgh, tonight, and on tour until 15 October. Miss Veitch’s Roses is at Oran Mor today, and at the Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, next week.