Amongst the Edinburgh summer revellers, Goth teenagers drinking underneath bridges, expensive suited lawyers schmoozing in overpriced, generic bars and backstreet thugs doing dodgy deals blossoms a very unlikely modern romance in Midsummer, 2009’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival favourite now residing at the Soho theatre.
A play with no underlining twists, sinister undertones or sudden shocks is a rare thing on the London stage, but David Greig and Gordon McIntyre have created just that. Venturing into the somewhat dubious territory of romantic comedies, the pair have created a quirky, unusual story of girl meets boy, taking them away from the well worn territory of cliché and instead placing them in the real world, removing the usual risk with such stories of slipping into a diabetic coma by adding a mere sprinkling of sugar to their tale.
A two-hander, Matthew Pidgeon and Cora Bisset play the unlikely pair Bob and Helena. The former is a 35-year-old middle-class criminal who reads Dostoevsky to cheer himself up; the latter is a success in the boardroom but a failure at life who is conducting an affair with a married man who she meets in Ikea car parks and may or may not have helped to make a baby whose potential existence is causing much more than a little turmoil. When the two collide in a city bar it sparks a weekend of midsummer madness.
With £15,000 in a plastic Tesco bag to get rid of and the feisty, lost Helena in a sick-stained bridesmaid dress, the two embark on the ultimate lost weekend. Along the way they find themselves in a Japanese rope bondage club, stuff people’s undelivered post with cash, make friends with an advice-giving tramp and drink wine with passionate Oddbin’s staff.
The two actors become narrators for the play, confessing their own takes on the story in uncomfortably and hilariously revealing style. The dialogue is interspersed with songs played by the actors on acoustic guitars, creating a Flight Of The Conchords-esque comedy, albeit it channelling Scottish folk music and 30-something angst.
Half reclaiming their youth, half running away from their confused and stagnant lives, somewhere along the way the pair discover something more profound between each other than just their shared philosophy of growing old or the ridiculousness of pre-conceived ideas of romance from overly sentimental films. They get along and they agree and want to talk and walk with one another. And that, in the middle of a hectic Edinburgh on the shortest day of the year, is enough to create an unashamedly quirky, awkward and sweet romance.