Something has gone dreadfully wrong with the translation of José Sanchis Sinisterra's political comedy from Spanish into English. It's packed with clichés, stumbles over its dialogue and becomes becalmed by its own metaphors. And that is just the script.
When it comes to the acting things manage to drop even further off the pace. Not that this should be directly attributed to Deirdra Morris and Rosemary McHale as Natalia and Priscilla, two ancient revolutionaries who live in the old Phantom Theatre on Pea Street. It was here that they lived and worked in a political theatre company run by maverick director Nestor, who was Priscilla's husband and Natalia's lover.
Although McHale drops the odd line and has made only the vaguest attempt to create a coherent character, it is Mark Rosenblatt's insipid direction which appears to be most at fault here. You can see the bones of what should be appearing but from straightforward laughs about a musical version of The Communist Manifesto, to more delicate references to the fading state of political theatre, no flesh ever begins to appear.
There is the odd glimpse of what might be when Morris is alone on the stage, creating the favoured mistress who was Nestor's star actress. Yet for all the potential for sparks to ignite between the two, a curtain of damp mist seems to have spread across the production.
The tragedy is that this should be a rampant piece of tumbling satire, relevant to anyone who has spent time in a left-wing political organisation or is concerned about the cataloguing and preservation of theatre. There's potential depth here, too, as Natalia and Priscilla look for the original script of the play which Nestor was working on when he fell to his death from the theatre's fly tower.
There are some nice touches of design from Ben Stones, helped by intelligent lighting by David Holmes, which do more to evoke the old Phantom theatre than anything the actors do. But ultimately what should have been a ghost of theatre past has become a mausoleum piece, inhabited by zombies.
- Thom Dibdin (reviewed at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow)