After bringing The Slab Boys back to the stage in 2015, the Citizens launches a new production of Cuttin’ a Rug, the middle part of John Byrne’s trilogy.
The scene is set in Paisley, in the 1950s. We follow the adventures of Phil (Ryan Fletcher) and Spanky (Paul-James Corrigan), two young men working as slab boys for a carpet factory. As Cuttin’ a Rug begins, a few hours after the end of the first play, Phil has just lost his job, and the protagonists are about to attend the staff party. Everything and everyone can be the butt of a joke to the duo, especially their colleagues, weak Hector (Scott Fletcher) and Alan (Shaun Miller), a boy from a wealthier background. Ryan Fletcher and Paul-James Corrigan excel in giving their characters an air of wry cruelty.
Caroline Paterson’s production goes to great lengths to recreate the feverish atmosphere and exuberant mood that precede the staff party, throwing in musical interludes stylishly choreographed by EJ Boyle. Picture a noisy crowd of youngsters outshining Elvis Presley’s signature quiff and dance moves to the sound of rock and roll classics. Facing the audience, men and women pout, put on an extra touch of lipstick, compare outfits or tug on their tights, in a sequence of almost uninterrupted banter.
Friends and rivals Bernadette (Louise McCarthy) and Lucille (Helen Mallon) steal the scene from their male counterparts, exchanging backhanded compliments and biting remarks about their dresses or their respective suitors. Their fragmented conversations outline the protagonists’ secret ambitions and aborted dreams, all embodied by a flamboyant cast.
Comes the second half of the play, in which we hear the echoes of the on-going party, which, like any party worthy of the name, unfolds, with its succession of drama, heartbreaks, petty fighting and betrayals. Underpinning the jokes and bickering is an edge of bitterness and disillusionment, which the production captures successfully, but without ever quite preparing us for the event that concludes the evening. The mood of dark comedy that dominates the play leaves little time or space for sentimentality, and can also leave you quite cold as a result. But if you are looking for two hours of black humour, then this is certainly a party worth attending.