Midsummer review: Brilliant new collaboration is note perfect

Midsummer (a play with songs) ****Traverse TheatreIT'S not so much sex, drugs and rock'n'roll in this smashing new collaboration between playwright David Greig and Edinburgh band Ballboy's singer/songwriter Gordon McIntyre, it's more a case of sex, drink and ukuleles.

In a plot which starts on a rainy Friday night in Wighams Wine Cellars, where divorce lawyer Helena is being stood up and Bob is waiting for a man with a car to sell, the play scuttles all over Edinburgh.

It's the weekend of midsummer as it races, late, across the Meadows from Marchmont, thunders along George Street – late again – and busts a gut as it hammers round the back of the Stockbridge colonies. It succeeds in chilling out, somewhat, in a kinky club down in Leith.

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All the while, Cora Bissett as Helena and Matthew Pidgeon as Bob inject vibrant, enthusiastic life into a script that is potentially as cheesy as the most corny of Hollywood rom-coms, yet succeeds in having a pace and attack of which Tarantino would be proud.

She's a divorce lawyer having an affair with a married man. He's a small-time chancer whose operations are not strictly legal, and who is still playing the field. Their chance encounter can only lead to one thing – a night of unbridled, uninhibited, passion.

Except that they are both just reaching 35. They're just realising that this is not necessarily all there is to life, and wondering how on earth they are going to change anything. More to the point, they're wondering how they can sustain the passion until morning, when they know they will part, never to see each other again.

As the pair's mid-life crises mount, Greig and McIntyre provide a whole range of theatrical devices for Bissett and Pidgeon to tell their tale. Music slips quite naturally in and out of the narrative, as they perform acoustic numbers that sit back and comment on the story.

It works because both are accomplished musicians in their own rights. Yet, even more effective is the way they step out of the action to tell the story, breaking the fourth wall to talk directly to the audience and comment on what actually happened.

This is not only strong story telling, allowing them to take on a whole range of minor characters to help the plot move on, it is also a particularly effective comic touch as, in the midst of a passionate clinch, they can step out of the action to say exactly what it is that their character is thinking.

It makes for a production that's hilarious yet thought-provoking. In Helena and Bob, Bissett and Pidgeon succeed in creating two characters who ought to be detestable, but who are touched with a real humanity.

A brilliant piece of new writing complimented by two of the standout performances seen in Edinburgh this year.

Run ends November 15

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