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Hoors (Edinburgh & tour)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
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After a truly epic stag weekend involving drugs, drink and the final straw of a mile-high fling with a budget airline stewardess, Andy's heart gave out - and the day meant for his wedding became his funeral instead. Now his almost-widow Vicky and her younger sister Nikki, along with two mates - sleazy Tony and pitiful Stevie - have gathered to pay their last respects. Hoors, set in small-town Fife, is Gregory Burke's attempt to write a dark comedy of manners about the sexual mores and manipulations of the modern twenty-or-thirtysomething. His effort, however, is ultimately disappointing.

Burke doesn't often write female characters, and perhaps that's for a good reason - with Vicky and Nikki he seems to be confusing strength for sarcasm and empowerment for promiscuity. However, the men are at least as bad; all four characters are vapid and often pathetic, inspiring neither sympathy nor hatred. Instead, they are just boring - at best, mildly amusing, at worst, rather dislikable - and it's hard to care about the soap-operatic plot of who is going to sleep with whom.

The ensemble cast are not bad, and if they had better material to work with they have the potential for a snappy and interesting comedy. Here, however, there is very little for the audience to hold on to, as the only dramatic tension comes from Conor Murphy's revolving set - even that, although nice to look at, gets dull after a few turns.

Hoors really suffers from a lack of direction. There are glimmers of hope in the script; some of the dialogue is very funny and occasionally hits the nail on the head. But without enough momentum to propel it along, Hoors falls flat. Not sure what it wants to be, it doesn't do justice to the slapped-on genre of "black comedy". It's a shame that - for the next few years at least - Burke's work will be constantly compared with his celebrated, brilliant Black Watch. But until he produces something with the same spark of magic, his plays risk being tagged, like Hoors, a disappointing follow-up.

- Colleen Patterson


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