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Long Live the Little Knife (Edinburgh Fringe)

David Leddy presents his new play about 'art forgery, castration and blind drunkenness' at the Traverse

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
The smaller Traverse space is covered in paint-splattered dust sheets. Two actors, Wendy Seager and Neil McCormack, greet the audience. A stage manager sits at a desk crowded with a lighting console, sound effects, stage properties. The play starts.

David Leddy, a Glaswegian playwright, and his company, Fire Exit, dabble in theory, psychology and theatrics all over the world. In this curiously titled piece, they set up a story of art forgery in the criminal underworld, a meditation on artistic fakery with a severe Pirandellian twist in which the actors' identification with their characters' anguish leads to disaster.

It's all smartly, if a little stiltedly, done, the business of dealing in fake vintage handbags (they're "untruthfully" Pravda rather than Prada) leading to the "big one," the conceptual swindling of the international market with a fake Jackson Pollock (isn't he fake to start with?) once lost by Peggy Guggenheim playing strip poker with Liberace.

Seager and McCormack lead us on a switchback ride through shady encounters, brothels and séances, but the stage manager is in control and he (Linsey Johnstone as "David Leddy") keeps interrupting them with a red rubber glove thrown down like a grim gauntlet, symbolic reminder of their barren intellectual hinterland, their childlessness and tragedy.

An unusual production doesn't altogether avoid a sense of hollowness or artificiality, but that's probably the point. And the writing is clever and wittily astringent throughout.


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