The other, more domestic cinematic reference point is Trainspotting, not that there’s much in the way of serious drug taking in the play (though a lot of wine is drunk) but more for the combination of the Edinburgh setting and the characters’ habit of talking through their thought processes directly with the audience. Steve Martin’s L.A Story is another possible influence, at least in regards to a couple of the narrative devices – such as the flashing car park sign that prompts one of the characters to make a life-altering decision.
Helena is a lawyer, comfortably off and expensively dressed but somewhat unhappy and unsatisfied; Bob is a bit of low-life, a man of no defining characteristics (his nickname is Medium Bob) who once dreamed of busking his way round Europe playing songs by the Jesus and Mary Chain and now hovers on the fringes of Edinburgh’s criminal world. Both are in their mid-thirties and starting to wonder if this is really their lot in life. Despite the relative unlikelihood of the match, when they meet in a New Town wine bar, their booze-fuelled flirtation turns into a one-night stand, though they both fully believe that it will be only that: a one-nighter.
When the characters run into each other the following morning, Helena having caused a scene at her sister’s wedding and Bob toting something precious in a thin plastic Tesco carrier bag, they find the connection of the previous evening still exists - even now that they’re sober - and circumstances contrive to allow them to spend a further raucous, dizzying evening in each other’s company. All the while their unconventional romance is soundtracked by the music of Gordon McIntyre; his songs are performed by the actors, who pause in the telling of their tale to pick up guitars and sing.
Alongside Bob and Helena, the third main character in Midsummer is Edinburgh - the city itself. There are plenty of references to local landmarks, famous or otherwise: the Castle Terrace Car Park, the Conan Doyle Pub and the Balmoral Hotel; the tramworks (or, as they’re locally known, the f**king tramworks) receive an obligatory dig, as does the constant rain. At one point Bob hurtles down Princes Street and out towards Leith, cutting a cinematic streak through the city as he’s pursued by a local heavy.
Greig’s production (he’s also the director) is full of delightful little details, with every piece of designer Georgia McGuinness’ cluttered set revealed to have a function. The frame of Helena's double bed becomes, at different times, some gymnasts’ bars and the cage at a fetish club, while Bob’s mild, birthday-driven emotional crisis is depicted through the form of a conference which seems to be taking place inside his brain, complete with audience Q&A session.
Midsummer is not a musical as such, as the subtitle makes clear, and the songs don’t really push the story forwards, instead they add a further layer of texture to the piece, even if their use becomes somewhat repetitive towards the end.
While the play is a slim thing that would no doubt quiver in a breeze (even with the last quarter injection of angst about pregnancy and parenthood), the overall effect of the piece is one of joy. It is uplifting and fun and wonderfully well performed by Cora Bissett and Matthew Pidgeon, who both fully grasp the tone required to make the story fly up into the (rainy, grey) Edinburgh sky.