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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

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