Midsummer @ Soho Theatre, London

cast list
Cora Bisset, Matthew Pidgeon

directed by
David Greig
David Greig’s Midsummer is a love story of sorts. Set in Edinburgh (where the play appeared at last years Fringe Festival), it describes the unlikely relationship between two 35-year olds and the wild summer weekend they spend together.

When Helena (Cora Bisset), a lawyer who has just been stood up, meets Bob (Matthew Pidgeon), a man with unfulfilled dreams and no apparent defining features, they consume rather a lot of wine and end up having a one-night stand. Or at least what they think is a one night stand; it’s actually the start of an entire weekend of unbelievable and outrageous events.
The play explores themes we can all relate to, such as loneliness, ageing, mortality and isolation, but in a light-hearted and highly amusing way.

It is fundamentally a story about story-telling, since Bisset and Pidgeon address the audience directly, describing what happened to their own characters in the third person. Similarly, both make clear that they dont recall events as they occurred, but as they remember them, sometimes embellishing the facts and applying poetic licence to heighten the emotional or comic effect.

Partly as a result of this approach the play falls between two stools. Its light-hearted comic elements clash with its occasional ventures into psychoanalysis – exploring how people often make decisions instinctively and only then try to justify them rationally. At the same time its evident intelligence is undermined by a number of clunky elements in the plot and a tendency towards cliche.

Midsummer is described as a ‘play with songs’ and the narrative is broken up by moments when the actors pick up guitars and sing a series of numbers composed by Gordon McIntyre. These songs were always intended to be a simple but effective accompaniment to the story but sometimes this simplicity is overdone. Were they just a bit cleverer, both musically and lyrically, they might better support the drama, as it is there’s little about them that excites.

Despite these complaints, the chemistry between the characters is delicious and the performances are superb. Midsummer is highly entertaining, witty, lively and perfect for chasing away the winter blues, for an evening at least.

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