David Greig's exuberant two-hander, Midsummer (a play with songs), barrels forth like a mad couple hurtling hand-in-hand through The Meadows of Edinburgh, each with a battered acoustic strapped to their back, laughing at the bus they know they've already missed.
The bus, let's say, is that thing you always said you wanted to do or be when you "grew up". They know they've missed it because, in the words of Medium Bob, when you hit 35, the midsummer age, that's it, you've done grown up. At that point, whoever and whatever you are is pretty much all you will ever be.
Medium Bob (Ben Prendergast) has just turned 35. He's petty crook running dreary errands for a local standover man and trying not to think too much about the tedious mess that has been his life since high school. Helena (Ella Caldwell), a divorce lawyer, though financially more successful, is similarly depressed about the state of her personal life, trying as she is to negotiate a not-very-fulfilling affair with a married man. She too has just turned 35. They hook up at a local wine bar and, putting their regrets behind them, one improbable thing leading to another, are soon falling headlong through a wild weekend of drugs, drink and impulse purchases, all fuelled by an ill-gotten Tesco bag full of cash.
David Greig makes some witty observations about midlife aimlessness, and seems to suggest, somewhat optimistically, that it's never too late to start over, but really Midsummer works best as pure escapism – shaggy dog stories, absurd and not very believable characters, a rollicking plot and some hilarious set-pieces, including a philosophical conference inside Bob's head and some sensible advice from a talking erection. It's also a love song to Edinburgh, and it's a testament to the performers and the text that, despite a tacky and mostly distracting set by Peter Mumford, a very strong sense of the city shines through.
Prendergast and Caldwell make a loveable couple and director John Kachoyan keep things moving at a grinning pace. Gordon McIntyre has written a series of folksy acoustic numbers to accompany the text, and although Caldwell in particular is not so flash with the guitar, these boozy, busking, shoutalong ballads probably gain a lot in the way of character from a bit of rough treatment.
The original Edinburgh Fringe production, staring Cora Bissett and Matthew Pidgeon, toured through Sydney early this year, but I don't think we lose much with the Red Stitch team. It's the second time that Red Stitch have taken on Greig's work and they seem to have a very fine affinity with his theatrical hijinks. Highly recommended.