THE VAULT FESTIVAL 2015
Not much is given away by the blurb for Ruaraidh Murray’s 2012 Edinburgh Fringe hit, Big Sean, Mikey and Me. Photo and tagline review combined – it’s ‘Tarrantino meets Irvine Welsh’- sets my expectation for stand up or storytelling around drug-fuelled, cartoonish violence. And in a sense this is not a million miles from the truth.
We follow Ruaraidh as he recalls a mosaic of memories from growing up in Stockbridge, Edinburgh; an area, he tells us, which doesn’t make it in to the tourist guides for reasons his recollections make evident. We hear how his friendships are formed firstly with Big Sean, imaginary friend and life guidance counsellor Sean Connery, and then Mikey, to whom the story is dedicated. If there is a large nod to Tarrantino and Welsh then it can be mainly attributed to Mikey and the adventures which come with being his friend.
Murray is a gifted storyteller who animates his childhood with simple movement and the vibrancy of his language. The seemingly epic battles between his crew, the Stockbridge lads, and neighbouring gangs are some of my favourite moments, engagingly dangerous and yet cut through with clownish ineptitude. Paul Robinson has also captilized on Murray’s facility for movement, working on some really beautiful and surprising transitions, and some fabulous character physicalizations.
Interspersed within his boyhood shenanigans are Ruaraidh’s present day struggles in his love life and acting career. Happily, Big Sean is there to offer a well-aimed boot up the backside, as well as steal his limelight during auditions. Whilst I found his Sean Connery impersonation truly charming, I was less convinced by the adult Ruaraidh who seemed a little two dimensional in comparison to the characters he so admires. There were also scripted interruptions to the flow of the narrative, such as a call from his agent mid-show, which seemed to me overly staged and not quite hitting the funny mark.
In general this wasn’t a rip-roar laughter show for me, there were far too many fascinating details that required my attention over abandon. Although, his observation on the perils of heavy exercise hitting you not the day after but the day after that, and his whimpered agony whilst trying to sit on the toilet, certainly made me chuckle with recognition.
This review does not do justice to the experience of watching Big Sean, Mikey and Me. It’s a bit like re-viewing a dream with myriad themes and images to it, following its own logic as it goes. There’s great colour in the images the writing provokes and lots of colourful language to accompany them. Being able to listen to his childhood dialect in full flow was a rare treat and, I don’t know about you, but somehow the Scottish can make the C word sound like a term of endearment. It’s not a perfect show and potentially it will really come to shine through the medium of film, which Murray and Robinson are currently working on. For now, however, it’s a beautifully told poignant memoir to an otherwise little known place and some of its unforgettable people.