The London premiere
of Iain Heggie’s Edinburgh success, The Tobacco Merchant’s
Lawyer, gets the autumn season at the Finborough off to a cracking
start. The play is a one-act monologue set in Glasgow in 1785 and follows the
fortunes of small-time lawyer Enoch Dalmellington, played by Callum
Enoch, and the play,
are haunted by a soothsayer called Madam Zapata who has visions of life in
2009; this device positions a contemporary voice in the past to dissect the
paradoxes of the present.
dialogue, combined with Liz Carruthers’s direction, allow
the centripetal movement of Enoch, a character with a naturally conservative
and strongly moral disposition, to pull against the centrifugal force of the
period’s desire for economic expansion. Whilst most of the figures described by
Enoch travel the world, Enoch himself is increasingly circumscribed, forced into
the attic of his beloved house in order to rent the lower floors due to
He simultaneously struggles
to adjust to his dependence on global connectedness. Enoch’s fate is entwined
with events occurring the other side of the globe, firstly by pirates in the
Caribbean who loot a ship he has invested in – causing Enoch to react with
utter disbelief to Madam Zapata’s prophesy that in 2009 pirates will be
idealised – and secondly by the outcome of the American civil war, which proves
to be Enoch’s saving grace.
who takes over the role of Enoch from Benny Young and John Bett, is exceptional.
His Enoch is at once lovable, foolish and very human.
The set is simply
yet eloquently designed by Gordan Bovi and Tyler Collins and allows director
Liz Carruthers to use an open book prop as a means for Cuthbertson to draw
attention to the private and public issues facing Enoch and Glasgow.
Heggie explores the
impact that global forces have on individual lives as “square receptacles”
replace the town crier and “automated carriages” replace the horse and cart.
This is a witty and intelligent play that is unafraid to take on big issues and
provides a barrel of laughs whilst doing so.