There’s always been a pleasingly surreal streak to the work of Scottish playwright Douglas Maxwell; and it’s certainly well to the fore in this new piece for Lung Ha, Scotland’s premier company working with adults with learning difficulties.
The Silent Treatment | Tron Theatre, Glasgow | Rating ***
In a classroom-like space, a thoroughly mixed bunch of people are carrying out a sponsored silence, in order to raise funds for a medical charity. On their team T-shirts is a picture of the mother of Billie, one of their members; Billie’s Mum is seriously ill, and the drama begins as Billie herself - played with impressive comic force by Nicola Tuxworth - becomes the first casualty of the strict rules of silence, when her boyfriend Arthur sneezes, and she automatically says “bless you”.
Cue 55 minutes of well-choreographed comic chaos, in Maria Oller’s production, as the silence become the pretext for all kinds of antics, from a whole riff based on one of the group finding a lucrative winning scratch-card in his pocket, through a collapsing wall crucifix with a decapitated Jesus, to the apparent arrival of a noisy team of builders.
There’s slapstick, situation comedy, a touch of tragedy, a final twist of cheesy romance; and if the overall effect is fragmented, and sometimes more like a series of exercises in silent comedy than a play in its own right, this latest show still provides an enjoyable showcase for the ever-more-impressive skills of the Lung Ha ensemble, rising joyfully to the notoriously difficult challenge of tightly-timed physical comedy, and making a persuasive job of it, at every outrageous turn.
• Also at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thursday-Saturday this week