Review – Come Blow Your Horn

August 11, 2013 | By | Reply More

✭✭✭✩✩  Enjoyable retro entertainment

A scene from the Makars' Come Blow Your Horn. Photo © Martin Burnell EdFRigne 2013

A scene from the Makars’ Come Blow Your Horn. Photo © Martin Burnell

Murrayfield Parish Church Centre (Venue 104)
Wed 7 – Sat 17 Aug 2013
Review by Hugh Simpson

The Edinburgh Makars provide a solid evening’s entertainment and some big laughs in their production of Neil Simon’s Come Blow Your Horn at Murrayfield Parish Church Centre.

This was Simon’s first play, and while it contains many of the wisecracking exchanges which characterise his later, more celebrated efforts, it would be too much of a stretch to call it an important work.

It seems to contain some semi-autobiographical elements, not least in the character of Buddy Baker, a 21-year-old aspiring playwright who ‘runs away from home’ in order to move in with his thirty-something brother Alan.

Alan enjoys a carefree, womanising lifestyle from his New York bachelor pad, while doing as little work as possible for their father’s wax fruit business. Over the following weeks, Buddy transforms himself into a carbon copy of his brother, while Alan begins to question his life choices.

Betraying its roots in the television scripts Simon was working on before his move into theatre, the play seems more like a generic sitcom than a fully realised theatrical piece. The message that we all need to grow up at some point is not a particularly profound one, and somewhat laboured over.

It is also instructive to see how much a play first performed in 1961 now appears to be very much set in another world in terms of its events and attitudes.  Nevertheless, there is more than enough enjoyment to be had here, and the cast largely rise to the challenge.

Derek Melon is impressive in the central role of Alan, bringing a ruffled, exasperated charm to what could be an extremely unsympathetic role. Wullie Cunningham displays consummate comic timing as Mr Baker, Alan and Buddy’s father, while Jan Renton’s hangdog, lugubrious air as his wife leads to many of the biggest laughs.

Retro period charm without being overdone

Buddy’s transformation from a whining nerd in an oversized suit into a confident, fashionable Lothario is well handled by Josh Sommariva, although his performance as the latter is certainly the stronger of the two, allowing him as it does to introduce more variety in his vocal delivery.

Becky Dunn is excellent as Peggy, the ditzy wannabe actress who is one of Alan’s many dalliances. The part could be an unsatisfactory and stereotypical one, but she manages to invest it with a real believability. The role of Connie, the woman who is regarded by Alan as ‘different’, could also be a difficult one.

Fifty years after the play’s first performance, modern audiences are likely to be bemused by an apparently strong woman whose only real ambition is to be a ‘housewife’, but Carole Birse conveys the contradictions of the character and her attractions for Alex convincingly, despite occasional struggles with her accent. Tina Courtier’s cameo as ‘A Visitor”, meanwhile, in terms of time on stage, must be a contender for the highest laughs-per-minute ratio in the entire Fringe.

Margaret Milne’s unfussy direction keeps the action moving along effectively, while the set is a particular joy, being full of retro period charm without being overdone.

At times the dialogue might benefit from picking up in pace. There is always a danger of going too fast with this kind of wisecracking repartee, but here the cast sometimes go too far the other way. The kind of crosstalk Simon uses, with characters picking up on each other’s metaphors, is very far from being realistic; attempting to present it as such can therefore make it seem a little too heavy.

It is noticeable that whenever a character becomes angry, the actors work off each other more quickly and the rhythm of the performance improves. As the run goes on, this may well be reflected in the rest of what is already a highly enjoyable performance.

Running time 2 hrs 30 mins
Run ends Sat 17 August 2013
Venue 104, Murrayfield Parish Church Centre, Ormidale Terrace, EH12 6EQ
Tickets from /www.edfringe.com
Makars website: www.edinburghmakars.com

Edinburgh makars Come Blow Your Horn

The cast of the Edinburgh Makars’ Come Blow Your Horn. Photo © Martin Burnell

ENDS

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