Morag Fullarton: Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut
A Play, A Pie & A Pint
***** (5 stars)
You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh…. the fundamental things apply, as time goes by… and as time goes by, we look back fondly at the past, thinking of it as a golden time, when everything was good, life was simple, and there were no problems; the fundamental things were love, and friendship, and loyalty; men were Real men, women were Lovelies, and baddies were Just Plain Bad. Casablanca speaks to us of all these things, and we remember it fondly, maybe wishing we were Rick, the cynical but soft-hearted owner of Rick’s Cafe, the beautiful and tragic heroine, Ilse, doomed to follow duty with the man to whom she’s married, rather than go with the man she truly loves, and Captain Renault, the cynical French policeman with an eye to the lovelies and a wonderful Gallic shrug…
And it was all there for us to revisit, in Morag Fullarton’s loving homage. The dashing trio were played by Gavin Mitchell, Clare Waugh and Kevin Lennon, the latter two of whom spent much time dashing around playing just about everyone else you remember from the film with side-splitting virtuosity, while also playing were three actors doing the best they could to bring Classic Movies To The Stage of a not very prestigious theatre, with nothing to follow this gig but the hope of landing a part in whatever they knew was casting next – including Singing in the Rain – and adding in tiny bits of business in the hope that a casting director might be in the audience.
Gavin Mitchell did a magnificent job of ‘being Bogey’, while also managing to send up many of the visual clichés of black and white movies, and especially film noir. I loved his laconic Bogey-style programme biog – “has done loads of stuff and is looking forward to doing a load more stuff”. I remember Clare Waugh from her stellar performance in an earlier season’s PPP, Val McDermid’s Margaret Saves Scotland, which I loved, and was most impressed with her ability to transform into ‘Major Strasser and the Third Reich’, while Kevin Lennon’s chameleon-like ability to switch character, accent, body language and personality in a split second was truly magnificent, especially when [with the help of a strategically-placed bead curtain] he played both characters in the scene where Captain Renault has to arrest Victor Laszlo…
There were a lot of laughs and topical/ local jokes and much sending up of contemporary stagecraft – you can’t use cigarettes on stage these days, so at one point Rick did an extraordinarily accurate and complicated mime while at other times another character rushed in to stop the scene just before lighter hit cigarette. There were a multitude of deliciously funny moments, but all the time the laughter was affectionate, and the audience both relished the humour and adored the romance of the narrative, which was most faithfully played out for us. We all joined in enthusiastically singing the Marseillaise, thus earning Laszlo’s grateful thanks. The simple but very authentic-looking set was most cleverly designed: I particularly loved the way Sam, the piano-player, played his vital part despite there being neither piano nor pianist on stage.
Everyone loved it! No-one wanted the show to end, and really appreciated the surprise bonus appearance after the plane had left for Lisbon with Ilse and Laszlo aboard and Rick and Renault set off to pursue their nascent “beautiful friendship” – with a hint that Renault might want more than a friendship…
Demand for tickets for this show was so high that it was moved into the larger Trav 1 – and still every show is sold out – so get yourself in the queue for returns right now!
Morag Fullarton: Casablanca: The Gin Joint Cut, A Play, A Pie & A Pint Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Runs until Sat May 4th; SOLD OUT, check box office for returns
Review by Mary Woodward