Edinburgh review: Love, Lies and Taxidermy (Summerhall)

A brilliant new comedy from playwright Alan Harris

Fiona Beasley, Richard Corgan in Love, Lies and Taxidermy
Remi Beasley, Richard Corgan in Love, Lies and Taxidermy

What’s to be done when your girlfriend decides the only way of helping her dad out of his debts is to star in a porno? That’s the predicament faced by Valentine, a teenager living in the dead-end Welsh town of Merthyr Tydfil. And there aren’t many people he can turn to him for advice: his Polish, taxidermy-loving dad is busy trying to convince his mum to love him, while his mum seems to be visiting her ‘friends’ quite a lot.

Alan Harris’ new comedy puts a boy-meets-girl story into modern disenfranchised town. Teenagers Valentine and Ash first meet on the steps of the research centre having each decided that offering their bodies up to medical science is the only way of making money fast. It’s not even that they need it: Ash’s dad is Mr Tutti Frutti the ice cream van man and he’s bankrupt, while Valentine hopes that by sending his parents on a cruise they might actually be happy again.

It turns out that Ash can’t deal with needles so a porno is the final option. Valentine’s quest to stop her from making this big mistake is peppered with characters from across the town. Remy Beasley, Richard Corgan and Andy Rush portray all of them and their performances are raucously funny.

Harris’ dialogue is smart too and though it does make us laugh that the forthright, confident Ash is considering becoming a sex star for cash, Harris still manages to subtly remind us that, actually, it isn’t that amusing. You can see the disparity of current society all over Harris’ Merthyr too: take the new Tesco (£2.5 million), the medical research centre (£33 million), everywhere seems shiny and new but the people in it are broke.

Harris masterfully builds up to a chaotic ending that is a joyful, surprising tribute to love, hope, community and big ideas. It will have you walking away with a spring in your step.

Love, Lies and Taxidermy runs at Summerhall at 1.35pm on various days until 28 August.

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