Set in Paisley Town Hall in peak festive season in the fifties, we are introduced to John Byrne’s second instalment of the Slab Boys trilogy. The employees of Stobo’s carpet manufacturers get out their glad rags, forget the mundane realities of work and let loose at the annual staff party. Directed by Caroline Paterson, Cuttin’ A Rug sees strutting adolescent double act Phil and Spanky back with more one-liners, monologues and cutting put-downs. Phil may have lost his job and been rejected by the Art School, but he can still dream of a life beyond the slab room.
For those that have seen the well-talked-about Slab Boys, there will be a nostalgic moment as the main players are very much the same. However, unlike many follow-ups or sequels this is not lacking. John Byrne’s curt writing about the lives of small-town dwellers and adolescent dreamers in post-war times is sharp. It helps to have a lived the life of a small-town dweller for sure, but if you cannot empathise with the sentiment of the play there are so many “sparkling” one-liners that will have you more than just smirking in the gods but which will also nostalgically date the production and add a reflective tang to Byrne’s painting of a much-loved era.
The acting is precise, as Barbara Rafferty plays the witty cynic that has a mouth on her as sharp as a Stanley knife and Paul James Corrigan sits well in Spanky, who not only walks the walk but also throws out some malicious one liners to the local Elvis wannabe. Byrne’s observational comedy is certainly no disappointment in the second of the trilogy with not only great direction by Paterson but also fantastic design by Kenny Miller. I felt immersed into this period of lindy-hopping, quiffs and socks on show.
There are charming cameos from Anne Lacey’s Miss Walkinshaw, whose hopes, memories and frock are all nostalgically thrown to the past and from the two heart-stealers, Lucille (Helen Mallon) and Bernadette (Louise McCarthy), whose derogatory sneering is much-loved. Ryan and Scott Fletcher keep it entertaining and Sean Scanlan adds a little of the narrator role in the production.
All in all, an entertaining feat with some witty dialogue, cutting one-liners and eccentric, animated acting, which holds your attention. Well worth an evening, particularly if you too are from a small town.
Cuttin’ A Rug runs at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow until 5th March 2017.