Anna Nodward-Seigel’s skilful keyboards introduced Ross Wylie’s Frank, whose eponymous protagonist displayed great dexterity of accent and sung beautifully in a manly baritone that belied his tender years – and I loved his invitation of audience participation to help out with a highly forgettable TV celebrity. His portrayal of a gauche teenager in a Superman t-shirt (going out with a goth) more was convincing than his looking back on yesteryear which for me lacked the nostalgic wistfulness that comes with age. So while I was greatly entertained by this charming storyteller, I can’t help feeling he was miscast. However it would have been difficult for director Amy Cameron to say that she loved the play and didn’t want the writer to perform it. Keeping audience interest in a monologue is a challenge for actor and director alike and for this they both deserve praise.
Catriona MacLeod’s Ingénue starts with her vivacious Nel as a music hall bawd. The clever collaboration of dramaturg Amy Tyler and director Roisin Kelly was seamless but the sudden shift of atmosphere and actress (from the coquette in the corset to the world-weary woman) was jarring. Unsettling shifts kept happening: each time a songbird was stifled, feathers ruffled and wings clipped, we sensed the prowling tom cat. Max Chase’s insipid Max, Polly Burn’s straightlaced Mildred and Sarah Gibbon’s vacuous Polly were disappointing. At first. This is a play that gets more horrible the more you dwell on it. Mildred has negotiated her place in this man’s world as caricature of Mary Poppins without the magic; Polly is has emptied herself out and so only Nel is able to cry as only she has the hope that leads to despair. Cait Lennox’s Cass is all foolish fiddling charm but a frisson of fear ripples through the audience when Nel (with the Ripper as mental backdrop) exclaims, ‘no woman is safe on the streets!’ – the ingénue will be fiddled with. It’s a man’s world and Max is king. MacLeod lets us experience subjection to sexual tyranny.