PARKING LOT IN PITTSBURGH
by Anne Downie
Directed by Ken Alexander
Byre Theatre. To 11 August 2001
Runs 2 hours 20 minutes. One interval.
Tickets 01334 475000
Review Timothy Ramsden 20 July
Sisters fall out over inheritance in new comic, unsophisticated drama.
After a long closure St Andrews’ Byre has re-opened with a sleek foyer and box office, plus a bar and a classy eaterie on its lower level. The new auditorium has ten rows of comfortable, high-backed seats, the last row being adaptable for wheelchair users and companions. And then there’s the play.
The new Byre opened with Sondheim’s fairytale musical Into the Woods but Downie provides its first premiere and example of Scottish drama.
The titular car park has been an investment for Maggie Sweeney (Eileen McCallum) who returns from an adult lifetime spent as a rich American family’s nanny to spend old age with her sisters home in Scotland. And a grasping, ungrateful, will-chasing lot they are.
Apparently, they’re also allegorical for the Scottish nation, which is perhaps why the sole younger generation representative Mairi-Clare (Shonagh Price) is the only generous-hearted one around. But the allegory’s more apparent in the programme notes than onstage, where we’re presented with something of a female Scottish John Godber play, touched up with a bit of sentiment (flashback to happy days with her soldier-lover whose brain wounds led Maggie to the USA, then later a reunion with his still silent, wheelchair-bound older self) and spiced with a few touches of theatricality.
They say anything too ridiculous to say can always be sung; here somebody obviously thinks anything too banal to be spoken by one person can be put across in choric chant.
What a chorus though. In Scottish acting at least, the Byre does audiences proud. Besides fine work from McCallum and Price, there’s the likes of Hope Ross, Ann Scott-Jones and Jan Wilson as acquisitive sisters, by turn self-satisfied, snobbish and meanly self-deprecatory. With Ken Harrison’s designs and Peter Hargreaves’ lighting, they give hope for the new Byre’s future. But dressed-up platitudes of unoriginal attitudes make for a short-term gain (OK, plenty of people laughed quite a lot) but offers little for the development of Scottish drama.