Theatre review: Role Shift, Glasgow

Oran Mor, Glasgow. Picture: Contributed
Oran Mor, Glasgow. Picture: Contributed
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In the past decade, the signers who interpret theatre for people with hearing problems have become an ever more impressive presence on Scotland’s stages; but all the same, the actress and playwright Lesley Hart is the first to make a signer – almost – the star of the show.

Role Shift | Oran Mor, Glasgow | Rating ***

In Role Shift, co-produced by A Play, A Pie And a Pint and Birds of Paradise, we find ourselves aboard a cruise liner where two unhappy people - wheelchair-using Allie, played with terrific charm by Robert Softley Gale, and gorgeous Bernie, a superbly sexual Louise McCarthy - are playing roulette in the ship’s casino. She takes him for a gay gigolo touting himself around the male passengers, he thinks she is doing much the same; but Carrie, the steward-cum-signer, has grown tired of staying out of the action, and has different plans for their future.

So with the dialogue smartly projected onto the set, Natalie MacDonald’s radiant Carrie appears at the table, spins the wheel, and gives destiny a tweak; Allie and Bernie fall in love, and soon become so absorbed in one another that they actually exchange bodies, Orlando-like, and fall to admiring their own new attributes like a pair of toddlers in a sand-pit.

It’s a brilliantly raunchy and playful idea, played to the hilt by Garry Robson’s terrific cast. And if the final body-swapping sequence creates a layer of confusion that’s almost too much to handle – leaving the story with nowhere much to go – it’s still a hugely sexy and memorable show, worth enjoying at its final Oran Mor performance today, or in Ayr next week.

• Final performance today; then at the Gaiety, Ayr, 24-26 June