+3 Review: The Gin Chronicles: A Scottish Adventure (artSpace@StMarks: until 25th Aug: 18.30: 1hr)

“Just as stylish and enjoyable as the previous instalment”

Editorial Rating: 4 Stars

I was hoping that for this review I might be able to save myself a little work and effectively copy and paste most of my glowing review from the first chapter of The Gin Chronicles and that would be job done. Yet while much of what I loved about last year’s show is back – the overall premise and style of the piece, as well as many of the same faces on stage, for me, chapter two isn’t quite as fulfilling – Interrupt the Routine once again serve up a high quality gin but have perhaps skimped a little on the tonic.

Presented as a group of actors performing a radio play in 1947, it’s a very similar setup to the last outing – with four actors delivering a live broadcast of a radio play, and Luke Lamont more than capably producing all the sound effects live. With a note from the sponsor, a break midway through the action, and period set, props and costumes this piece really does have a lovely feel about it.

What Interrupt the Routine do very well is characterisation, in particular, slick and seamless transitions from one to the next. The cast of four play well over ten characters between them, and while some might only get a couple of lines, each one feels real and just as well-developed as the last. In saying that, it was a little disappointing that in this performance some of the regional accents (in particular Scottish and Spanish) seemed to slip on more than one occasion.

In terms of narrative, we see the useless but likeable amateur detective John Jobling (Robert Blackwood), once again supported by his rather more astute housemaid Doris Golightly (Helen Foster), trying to solve a gin-related crime. It’s all light-hearted stuff, but it’s only really towards the end that any sort of tension or detecting seem to come into play, and it’s a shame this isn’t brought in sooner, in favour of cutting some of the very nice but slightly unnecessary character vignettes in the first half of the production. The writing feels just a little lazy in places (references to “red lorry, yellow lorry” and an over-reliance on the name of “the Scottish play” being two examples) and the banter between the actors comes across as a little forced.

It’s still a very good show – just as stylish and enjoyable as the previous instalment – but for me lacks that extra garnish to make it really special.

Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)Star (blue)

Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 24 August)