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The Hub, Edinburgh International Festival

Midsummer is a 2008 play written by David Grieg, revised here for the Edinburgh International Festival in a production directed by JMK winner Kate Hewitt.

In an overt nod to Shakespeare’s play, it tells the story of a young woman called Helena and her relationship with a small-time crook, Bob. The narrative is framed around a wedding, and narrated by Bob and Helena thirty years on. It centres around a midsummer night in Edinburgh, in which Bob and Helena fritter away fifteen grand, pilfered through Bob’s underhand dealings selling nicked cars. What follows is a night of reckless debauchery in which inhibitions are lost and a spirit of reckless abandon is gained – ending in a fetish club amusingly called A Midsummer Night’s Cream.

As with several other of Grieg’s plays, it’s a play about the decisions we make, and what separates our day-to-day selves from a remote sense of the underlying elemental being resting beneath. As with Outlying Islands and Pyrenees it’s a play about how fragile this boundary is, and how easily it can be shattered.

Grieg’s script offers an idiosyncratic blend of coarse but incisive dialogue, fiercely imaginative descriptive passages, and a kind of unashamed sentimentalism. It’s a paean to love, revelry, and the city in which it is set, with some engaging performances from Benny Young, Sarah Higgins, Henry Pettigrew and Eileen Nichols.

I wasn’t entirely sold on the production. The nuptial conceit – with a wedding band and feast providing the backdrop for the entire narrative – gives the whole affair a tweeness that’s a little grating, and that has the effect of trivialising the play. It all looks and sounds like the glamping version of a Bacchanalian feast.

Essentially it’s all very cute, and that quality seems to iron out the sharp edges in Grieg’s script. Still, always a pleasure to watch a play by Grieg, who is I think underappreciated – surely deserving to be recognised as one of the UK’s most original voices in theatre.

  • Drama
  • By David Grieg
  • Directed by Kate Hewitt
  • Cast includes: Benny Young, Sarah Higgins, Henry Pettigrew and Eileen Nichols
  • The Hub, Edinburgh International Festival
  • Until 25th August 2018

About The Author

Reviewer (UK)

Luke Davies is an arts journalist, academic researcher and theatre director who lives and works in London. He also writes for the Times Literary Supplement, Literary Review and Review 31.

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